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April 16, 2010

OVERDUE PROGRESS ON HOSPITAL VISITATION RIGHTS.... The Obama administration has taken some important steps over the last year on gay rights, but arguably none is more important than the change announced last night.

President Obama on Thursday ordered his health secretary to issue new rules aimed at granting hospital visiting rights to same-sex partners.

The White House announced the rule changes, which will also make it easier for gay men and lesbians to make medical decisions on behalf of their partners, in a memorandum released Thursday night. In it, the president said the new rules would affect any hospital that participates in Medicare or Medicaid, the government programs to cover the elderly and the poor.

"Every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindness and caring of a loved one at their sides," Mr. Obama said in the memorandum, adding that the rules could also help widows and widowers who rely on friends and members of religious orders who care for one another. But he says gay men and lesbians are "uniquely affected" because they are often barred from visiting partners with whom they have spent decades.

Because nearly every American hospital receives at least some federal funding, the policy change is expected to have a significant national impact. It will not be immediate -- HHS will begin a rule-making process -- but the shift is expected to take effect later this year.

The change was reportedly inspired, at least in part, by the ordeal a Florida family endured in 2007. Lisa Pond was stricken with a fatal brain aneurysm, and partner of 18 years, Janice Langbehn, and their four adopted children, were prohibited from seeing her. Langbehn had power of attorney for Pond, but officials still refused. Pond died before her loved ones were even allowed into her hospital room.

Last night, President Obama called Langbehn to tell her about his administration's new policy. "I was so humbled that he would know Lisa's name and know our story," Langbehn told the NYT. "He apologized for how we were treated. For the last three years, that's what I've been asking the hospital to do. Even now, three years later, they still refuse to apologize to the children and I for the fact that Lisa died alone."

A spokesperson for the Family Research Council, a leading anti-gay religious right group, characterized the policy shift as "pandering," and whined, "The memorandum undermines the definition of marriage." This is the same Family Research Council that recently labeled Obama "our first gay president."

Whatever. The far-right can pout and send ugly fundraising letters about this, but decent people will still be able to consider this development for what it is: another breakthrough for decency, compassion, and common sense.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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In a nutshell, we have a decent caring individual in the White House, we have not had that for at least the previous 8 years.

Posted by: JS on April 16, 2010 at 7:57 AM | PERMALINK

FRC message: "You hate gays. We hate gays. Send Money."

Posted by: DAY on April 16, 2010 at 8:02 AM | PERMALINK

Correction regarding the lesbian couple. They were not from Florida, but Washington state. They were in Florida to take a cruise with fellow-gay/lesbian parents and their families when Lisa Pond suffered her aneurism.

Posted by: Michael W on April 16, 2010 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

It sounds like the Family Research Council needs to avail themselves of medical attention in order to get over their massive case of cranial rectitus.

Posted by: Mustang Bobby on April 16, 2010 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, for to link to the local article in the Seattle Times.

Gay-rights advocates said the rules change was inspired by the case of a same-sex couple, Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond. For three years, Langbehn, of Lacey, Wash., had been speaking out against the kinds of hospital policies that in 2007 kept her away from her partner of 18 years, Pond, until just moments before Pond died in a Miami hospital.
Posted by: Michael W on April 16, 2010 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

another breakthrough for decency, compassion, and common sense.

bravo. encore

Posted by: neill on April 16, 2010 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

It just occurred to me that people like this Family Research Council define their lives on the basis of other peoples' activities, which would otherwise have no effect whatever on them.
Why go to all this extra trouble to find someone or something to hate? I presume they consider themselves the best of Christians: where's their charity? Flint-hearted Research Council!

Posted by: slader on April 16, 2010 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

another breakthrough for decency, compassion, and common sense This is the 21st century and we are in the richest nation on earth - we shouldn't need to be having breakthroughs for decency, compassion, and common sense. This is why it is important to banish the current brand of republicans to the dustbin of history.

Posted by: N.Wells on April 16, 2010 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

To me, personally, this is more important than DADT.

Posted by: SaintZak on April 16, 2010 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

scrolling thru the wapo comments on this, and it's remarkable the numbers who are outraged by this.

why, it's just another sign of the marxistsocialistcommiekenyan usurper in chief's disregard for the congressional process by issuing this order.

Posted by: bkny on April 16, 2010 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

To deny someone visitation even with power of attorney? Beyond comprehension. Hate plain and simple

Posted by: john R on April 16, 2010 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

He called her to apologize? Love this man.

Posted by: impik on April 16, 2010 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

Last night, President Obama called Langbehn to tell her about his administration's new policy.

Did our tax dollars pay for this call? If so, I am appalled at this socialism. end snarkyness.

Good for the family and kudos to Obama for noting such an outrage that someone, even having legal power of attorney, means nothing to gay haters. I would also assume the kids were legally adopted and that too meant nothing to someone who denied access. These religeous people sure do judge a lot, yet from all accounts, aren't they not to judge?

Posted by: flyonthewall on April 16, 2010 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

"Mr. Obama said in the memorandum, adding that the rules could also help widows and widowers who rely on friends and members of religious orders who care for one another."

Now one has to ask the FRC why they hate religious orders and perhaps grandma and grandpa widows and widowers and their friends. HMMMMM?

Posted by: flyonthewall on April 16, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

This is a very good development, but can anyone explain to me the rationale for restricting visits to blood relatives or spouses in the first place? A friend of mine pretended to the sister of a friend of hers--not a romantic partner--in order to be at her side. If she--my friend--hadn't--her friend would have spent her last days alone, as she had no family.

Posted by: J on April 16, 2010 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

SaintZak, I was thinking exactly the same thing.

As for decency, compassion, and common sense; no one on the right possesses such traits. No one. They are completely non-existent in these often self-professed "Christians." They are horrible, miserable, hateful people. And a complete waste of oxygen.

Posted by: MsJoanne on April 16, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

The more reasonable, thoughtful and kind Pres. Obama is, the more the right wing hates him. Anybody with a beating heart knows that this policy change is the right thing to do. Would someone please explain to me why the hate, sarcasm and lies of tea partiers, Sara Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Mitch McConnell, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, etc. inspires so many people? Ever since the 2000 Republican Presidential Convention which featured Zell Miller spitting hate to the cheers of the crowd while the Democratic Convention keynote was delivered by state Sen. Barack Obama who spoke of uniting red and blue states, etc., I have been perplexed and sickened by the tone and jeers of the right. Apparently, I am hopelessly naive, but the sight of all that hate and cynicism sickens me.

Posted by: Kathryn on April 16, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

This is great news, my husband has AIDS and has to go into hospital on a regular basis. I am always challenged, so we tell I am his brother. It works but should not be necessary.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on April 16, 2010 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Bear with me a moment for a personal note why this is so important.

In 2007, my partner had to have emergency open heart surgery. We had a few day's warning, so we scrambled to get our power-of-attorney documents updated. We felt we could not have the surgery in Virginia, since there was no guarantee I would be allowed to visit or make medical decisions in case something bad happened. So, we opted to have the surgery here in DC.

For ten days I was basically at the hospital 24/7. Fortunately, I faced no challenges to my being there, and the hospital staff treated me with great courtesy and tenderness. (I was a mess, fearful of losing someone with whom I had spent 30 years of my life).

The day Rick was discharged, a nurse pulled me aside. She told me "Steve, we were all touched by your devotion and support for Rick. We don't often see that, even in straight couples. You've taught us all a lesson of why allowing gay people medical access is so important. Thank you for teaching us."

As others have pointed out, this is more important than DADT.

Posted by: Eeyore on April 16, 2010 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

I had no idea there were actually rules, sure I have seen it on TV, but seriously, why does the hospital care who visits a dying person. What is the rational behind only allowing family members ?

If I were the lover I would tell that hospital to go find a relative to pay the bill.

Posted by: ScottW714 on April 16, 2010 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: ET on April 16, 2010 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Last night, President Obama called Langbehn to tell her about his administration's new policy.

In a day or so the hospital will issue a press release blasting the president for interfering with its right to hate and discriminate.

Sarah Palin will slam the president for using big government to interfere with states rights.

Is it just me or are people unusually anxious to be seen as giving the finger to the president to garner some sort of strange noteriety among "real Americans.


Obam suggest a "spreading the wealth," Joe "not the plumber" blasts the president gets 15 minutes of fame.

Obama wonders about a cop arresting Professor Gates in his own house. The cop blast the president, gets fawning approval form Fucksnews.

Obama wins nobel peace prize, right-wingers trip over themselves to blast the president and the nobel committee. Suggest Obama should refuse it prize?

Obama gives state of the Union, congresscritter yells "You lie!" becomes white-wing hero.

Obama decries deplorable conditions in mine leading to 29 deaths. Scumbag mine CEO blast president.

Obama propses healtcare reform, insurance companies jack up rates.

Obama signs HCR,insurance companies claim loophole means they don't have to follow law.

Obama negoriates historic nuclear arms reduction treaty, congresscritter accuses him of treason.

Obama proposes a new direction at NASA, first man on moon writes open letter accuse president of fostering mediocrity.

I could go on.

It's now impossible for me to see this as anything more than contempt and hatred for the president because he's black.

Posted by: Winkandanod on April 16, 2010 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

This news lifts a great weight off my heart. As a mother of a transgendered woman this is wonderful news. She would not visit me in Florida because of our archaic, homophobic views. Hopefully this news will make her more comfortable to come down here with her wife (she married 'legally' in Texas because the law there does not view transgendered individuals as anything other than their birth sex). Thank you President Obama!

Posted by: Lucy on April 16, 2010 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

This is a very nice thing to do. (It's certainly more important than a party in the East Room.) Unfortunately, this is not a law. It's a regulation for hospitals receiving certain federal funds. It could stay in effect until the next Repugnant president unilaterally orders it rescinded. This is a well-meaning sop from an administration that has grossly mishandled its relations with its gay supporters. The bottom line: this is NOT more important than repealing DADT or passing ENDA or repealing DOMA.

Posted by: Temple Houston on April 16, 2010 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Oh that's right, this isn't Focus on the Fuckups, it's the Fuckup Research Council; the difference ususally escapes me..

Oh Joy! We now have the right to visit our partners in the hospital. One might have assumed that was already a given in a civilized setting which is actually quite telling in itself

Posted by: Troll-Op-ed on April 16, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

In all my years as a nurse (Mayo Clinic), we NEVER questioned the right of visitors to see a patient. It wasn't our business. The only time I saw a visitor escorted out it was a very drunk guy who was upsetting everybody. Good for Obama!

Posted by: Athena on April 16, 2010 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

This has always puzzled me.
I've been the hospital and emergency room many times.
My girl friend has alway been allowed to visit (even spent the nite in my room, once).
Once we were asked what our relationship was. I said she's my fiancee and that was it. She went with me as I got stiches.

If I had a boy friend it would be different?

Posted by: agave on April 16, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

In all my years as a nurse (Mayo Clinic), we NEVER questioned the right of visitors to see a patient. It wasn't our business.

Right, but Mayo's the exception in this regard. This policy is most notable for the LGBT community, but it affects everyone else positively, too. I bet we've all lied about family relationships to see friends and coworkers in the hospital. I've been the "sister" of more than a few only children through the years.

Still, just watch -- the right will be more than willing to argue against their own right to visit close friends if it keeps gay and lesbian partners apart. They're that stupid and vicious.

Posted by: shortstop on April 16, 2010 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

If the FRC doesn't like America's hospitals being open to Americans, then they can scurry on back to the woods, dress up in their fancy robes, and start exorcising the living be-jesus out of each other.

Posted by: S. Waybright on April 16, 2010 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

This is really good news. My oldest friend (since we were in kindergarten) will find this particularly good news, since he and his partner of 26 years are both of the age where one finds oneself with medical problems requiring hospitalization, and they have both expressed concern over their lack of ability to care for each other and make these decisions for each other (even though both have "understanding" families, that's still not even close to having this right).

Posted by: TCinLA on April 16, 2010 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

This is indeed good news.

I worked for many years (now retired) at the library which served the University Medical Center here in Tucson. I'm grateful to say that UMC has never denied people the right to visit, although they do restrict the number of visitors to people in ICU to one or two per hour, which seems sensible to me.

It ought to be illegal to deny someone the right to visit who has medical power of attorney for the sick person.

Temple Houston--I can understand that you regard this action as a "sop", but little steps, little steps. Let's all continue to work together to pressure the Obama Admin. to overturn DADT, and to make executive orders into actual laws. You're right that laws are needed. But let's also celebrate steps in the right direction. Can you imagine Bush ever ordering his health secretary to do this?

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on April 16, 2010 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Read the memo closely. This changes nothing. This is merely a memo to HHS seeking proposed guidelines, which will be delivered within six months, which will then be opened to a public comment period, during which time every christian hospital out there will raise enough of a stink so that this goes down the toilet.

A memo "allowing" hospital visitation does not a legal family make. If this is SO important, why the hell wasn't it done within the first 100 days, hmmm?

Hey, look! A shiny! Just in time for midterm fundraising! Pay no attention to the White House's torpdeo of DADT repeal! A memo on hospitals!

LGBT Americans are nothing more than an ATM to the Democratic party.

Posted by: Ephemereal on April 16, 2010 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Ephemereal, I agree. I have given a lot of money and seen a great deal less in return. I will not fund any incumbent this time, that's entirely in their court this election cycle. Of course if Barbara Boxer can't defeat the stupidity of Carly Fiorina then she doesn't deserve any money or support anyway. I'm looking forward to getting rid of Grandma DiFi..

Posted by: Trollop on April 16, 2010 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

The same nuts that support the teabaggers will continue to deny equal rights for one and all. I am a white 72 year old great-grandmother and I am so sick of the hate mongering I could vomit!

Posted by: andi decker on April 17, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK



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