Obama grants hospital visitation, power of attorney rights to gay and lesbian couples

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, April 15, 2010 23:02 EDT
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The White House issued a memo Thursday directing all hospitals that accept Medicare and Medicaid to end discrimination against same-sex couples, thereby granting full visitation and medical power of attorney rights to gay and lesbian partners at the vast majority of hospitals nation-wide.

The President’s order directed the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a framework which guarantees the rights almost universally; likewise, the story has been welcomed almost universally in the press.

“It seems like common sense to allow those closest to a person the right to offer love and support in those times of need,” opined Chicago Now’s gay blog. “It’s a right that I feel many people take for granted. How many of us have had loved ones fall ill only to find that once they were admitted to the hospital we were nothing more than a ‘friend’ in the hospitals eyes. If you recall, a lesbian was refused visitation of her dying partner in Florida just last year.”

“Every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay,” President Obama wrote.

“Gay and lesbian Americans are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they have spent decades of their lives — unable to be there for the person they love.”

The issue has been a centerpiece of many a gay rights petition and rally over the years, though conservatives in government had been capable of keeping the barricade in place until President Obama’s election.

“The new rules do not apply only to gays,” wrote Michael Shear, in The Washington Post. “They also affect widows and widowers who have found themselves unable to receive visits from a friend or companion. And it would allow members of some religious orders to designate someone other than a family member to make medical decisions.”

While the move will likely earn President Obama some of the political credit he lost by dragging his feet on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” The Human Rights Campaign said it had been working with the administration for some time to ensure this order would be issued, according to CNN.

“In the absence of gay people being able to legally marry in most jurisdictions, this is a step to rectify a gross inequity,” said David Smith, an executive at the Human Rights Campaign, told the network. “Because without gay marriage, much more inequities exist. It should be applauded.”

Read the full memo.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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