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Obama Orders Hospital Visitation for LGBT Families

(photo: nerissa's ring)

In a move that could begin to mollify the rift between President Obama and the gay rights community, the President announced in a memorandum new rules mandating hospital visitation rights for all families, including gay and lesbian partners. The ruling applies to everyone, but is clearly shaded toward LGBT families. From the memorandum:

There are few moments in our lives that call for greater compassion and companionship than when a loved one is admitted to the hospital. In these hours of need and moments of pain and anxiety, all of us would hope to have a hand to hold, a shoulder on which to lean — a loved one to be there for us, as we would be there for them.

Yet 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. Often, a widow or widower with no children is denied the support and comfort of a good friend. Members of religious orders are sometimes unable to choose someone other than an immediate family member to visit them and make medical decisions on their behalf. Also uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives — unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated […]

Many States have taken steps to try to put an end to these problems. North Carolina recently amended its Patients’ Bill of Rights to give each patient “the right to designate visitors who shall receive the same visitation privileges as the patient’s immediate family members, regardless of whether the visitors are legally related to the patient” — a right that applies in every hospital in the State. Delaware, Nebraska, and Minnesota have adopted similar laws.

My Administration can expand on these important steps to ensure that patients can receive compassionate care and equal treatment during their hospital stays.

The order seeks to give health care providers the best access to patient’s medical histories from their loved ones, and to get the proper intermediaries to communicate medical decisions for those incapacitated. And it provides some basic fairness to all patients, but particularly those in the LGBT community. This would be enforced by applying it to any hospital receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding, which makes it virtually universal.

Hospital visitation is important, and this is a compassionate order. But it’s a small step in the grand scheme of things, one that the President has offered in the past in place of movement on marriage equality or repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. AmericaBlog’s Joe Subday, reacting to this order, said he’d rather the President get around to those weightier issues.

The President will probably not be able to get by along the edges, given the harm already done in the relationship with the LGBT community. ENDA’s prospects look decent in the House, but repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell seems stalled, as the military has apparently succeeded in delaying it. Unless and until there’s movement on those issues, these lesser orders will be met with a smile and a tapping of the foot, waiting for the campaign promises to be kept.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Obama Orders Hospital Visitation For LGBT Families

In a move that could begin to mollify the rift between President Obama and the gay rights community, the President announced in a memorandum new rules mandating hospital visitation rights for all families, including gay and lesbian partners. The ruling applies to everyone, but is clearly shaded toward LGBT families. From the memorandum:

There are few moments in our lives that call for greater compassion and companionship than when a loved one is admitted to the hospital. In these hours of need and moments of pain and anxiety, all of us would hope to have a hand to hold, a shoulder on which to lean — a loved one to be there for us, as we would be there for them.

Yet 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. Often, a widow or widower with no children is denied the support and comfort of a good friend. Members of religious orders are sometimes unable to choose someone other than an immediate family member to visit them and make medical decisions on their behalf. Also uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives — unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated […]

Many States have taken steps to try to put an end to these problems. North Carolina recently amended its Patients’ Bill of Rights to give each patient “the right to designate visitors who shall receive the same visitation privileges as the patient’s immediate family members, regardless of whether the visitors are legally related to the patient” — a right that applies in every hospital in the State. Delaware, Nebraska, and Minnesota have adopted similar laws.

My Administration can expand on these important steps to ensure that patients can receive compassionate care and equal treatment during their hospital stays.

The order seeks to give health care providers the best access to patient’s medical histories from their loved ones, and to get the proper intermediaries to communicate medical decisions for those incapacitated. And it provides some basic fairness to all patients, but particularly those in the LGBT community. This would be enforced by applying it to any hospital receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding, which makes it virtually universal.

Hospital visitation is important, and this is a compassionate order. But it’s a small step in the grand scheme of things, one that the President has offered in the past in place of movement on marriage equality or repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. AmericaBlog’s Joe Subday, reacting to this order, said he’d rather the President get around to those weightier issues.

The President will probably not be able to get by along the edges, given the harm alrady done in the relationship with the LGBT community. ENDA’s prospects look decent in the House, but repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell seems stalled, as the military has apparently succeeded in delaying it. Unless and until there’s movement on those issues, these lesser orders will be met with a smile and a tapping of the foot, waiting for the campaign promises to be kept.

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David Dayen

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