President Obama has granted hospital visitation privileges to gay and lesbian partners of medical patients tonight, informing the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a rule that would prevent hospitals from denying these rights.
“There are few moments in our lives that call for greater compassion and companionship than when a loved one is admitted to the hospital,” he wrote in a memo. “Yet every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides.”
Gay and lesbian Americans are “uniquely affected” by the current relatives-only policy at hospitals, he went on to write, and “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.”
The new policy will make clear that any hospital receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding must allow patients to decide who can visit them and will outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and other characteristics.