Obama extends health care rights to gay partners

by Charles Babington .
Friday Apr 16, 2010

In a move hailed as a step toward fairness for same-sex couples, President Barack Obama is ordering that nearly all hospitals allow patients to say who has visitation rights and who can help make medical decisions, including gay and lesbian partners.

The White House on Thursday released a statement by Obama instructing his Health and Human Services secretary to draft rules requiring hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments to grant all patients the right to designate people who can visit and consult with them at crucial moments.

The designated visitors should have the same rights that immediate family members now enjoy, Obama's instructions said. It said Medicare-Medicaid hospitals, which include most of the nation's facilities, may not deny visitation and consultation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

The move was called a major step toward fairness for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

"This is a critical step in ending discrimination against LGBT families and ensuring that, in the event of a hospital stay, all Americans have the right to see their loved ones," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The new rules, Obama said, should "guarantee that all patients' advance directives, such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies, are respected," and that patients' designees be able to "make informed decisions regarding patients' care."

Some gay advocacy groups say Obama has moved too slowly to fulfill campaign promises to expand their civil rights. The nation's top military leaders recently said it is time to end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that has kept gays from serving openly in the armed services.

The Human Rights Campaign, which backs gay rights, called Obama's decision an "important action" that was inspired in part by a New York Times article about a lesbian couple in Miami. They were kept apart while one lay dying in a hospital despite having an "advanced health care directive" asking for full visitation rights for each other.

"Discrimination touches every facet of the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, including at times of crisis and illness," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "The president's action today will help ensure that the indignities" suffered by the Miami patient and her children will not happen to others.

In his statement, Obama said: "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."

He added: "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."

Without the expanded visitor-designation rights, Obama said, "all too often, people are made to suffer or even to pass away alone, denied the comfort of companionship in their final moments while a loved one is left worrying and pacing down the hall."

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


  • BB, 2010-04-16 11:57:13

    Except for a few antique anecdotes, is there a plague of cases requiring Obama to intervene, or is this simple grandstanding and a way for His Arrogance to begin to show us Americans how it’s gonna be under da Leader? Who exactly is Barack Hussein Obama that he issues "orders" to American hospitals? And how soon are those orders going to involve what treatments and therapies the government will allow its citizen-slaves, and which it won’t. With Obama, you always have to look under the surface of his seeming gestures to see what’s really going on. It’s all that Alinsky community organizing training of his.

  • Allen - DC, 2010-04-16 16:44:06

    Why are you ranting on this issue? If it were you, wouldn’t you want someone by your side that loves you and would honor your wishes? Oh, you mire than likely straght and have that "right"-but as a gay USA citizen I don’t always have that opportunity. I and members of my community deserve the same rights and opportunities as you do. It is called EQUALITY and it standards for some but not for others is called "separate and NOT equal." Let us live free. And if that means that the President, who yes I voted for, must issue an order, then so be it.

  • patroy, 2010-04-16 17:11:38

    It’s about time!!!!

  • BB, 2010-04-16 19:00:36

    Hey 16:44 you ignorant putz: My gay lover died one year ago today from brain cancer, and because we had executed a living will for him, not only was I beside him the whole way down, but I made medical decisions for him including his end of life decisions. Knock off your bullshit and grow a pair. You don’t need some carnival sideshow fascist clown like Obama "giving you your rights." Your rights are there to be taken if you have the initiative to do so. The problem with people like you is you sit there and whine and expectg government to do everything for you including wiping your ass. You’re only a victim if you allow yourself to be. You are pathetic.

  • antonio, 2010-04-16 19:02:23

    Not everything in the government is bad... Stop being so paranoid.

  • kenny, 2010-04-16 19:14:09

    Dear BB you sure spend a lot of time on a gay site arguing against everything that the gay citizens deserve. He that shouts the loudest has the most to hide. If you say your straigt your lying so don’t even claim to be. Are you really so afraid of the truth that you spend all your time on here ranting about The president and his race. Yes r it’s obvious that your also racist. LOL. Your so funny it makes my day to laugh at you when I read your post. Most enjoyable.

  • BB, 2010-04-16 19:59:35

    19:14 did you not have to pass reading to get your GED? Read my post of 19:00 and see if you can’t figure out i’m GAY. Your posts don’t make me laugh. They make we weep that we can produce such utter stupidity in this nation. By the way when you accuse someone of being a racist, you should use the contraction "you’re" a racist, not "your" a racist. That way you won’t appear quite as ignorant.

  • Nyuushin, 2010-04-16 20:47:11

    Thank you BB for continuing to contribute in such meaningful and insightful ways. Tell me, should every gay couple in the world have to sit down and lawyer out in a will visitation and power of attorney rights that should be there in the first place?why don’t we have the same procedure for str8 partners? As for "what else" Obama will do, do you have reasons other than your paranoid delusions and T-Bag rhetoric to support such a conclusion? No? Thanks.

  • me, 2010-04-16 20:52:03

    BB, why are you bothering to comment against gay rights. Are you serious that you had a gay lover and that he passed away? Why do you hate the gay community and those that want equal rights? Why are you so filled with hate? What happened to you? If you are heterosexual, why do you care if gays want to be equal?How does gay equality make any difference in your life? Your post are always filled with hate speak. Lots of hate going on in your life.

  • BB, 2010-04-17 13:29:39

    20:52: Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to grow up sometime and recognize that politics is an adult sport and it gets very heated. You also have to recognize that somebody disagreeing with you is not de facto hate speech. I do not "hate" homosexuals, but I sure as hell despise homosexual whining. My genetic predisposition is to have sex with men, it does not require I also be a left wing drone. Life is tough. Everybody endures humiliations, outrages, insults, and difficulties. And not every one of those travails requires an overhaul of federal law or a massive new government program. Too much of gay America is very young, very inexperienced, and segregates itself into ghettos where it feeds off its own paranoia, wallowing in self-pity and rage. There’s a lot more to gay America than that. I’m here to express an alternative point of view. You call that "hate speech" because you don’t have the tools to debate and because surrendering to jejune political posturing is a hell of a lot easier than enduring life’s slings and arrows while remaining positive, creative, and joyful.

  • , 2010-04-17 22:13:16

    Look, everyone has their own views and oppinions when it comes to politics. Whether prejudices, circumstance, or upbringing influence those oppinions, they are still just that. It is this countries right to free speech that allows us to express thosw oppinions. While I may agree with the potus and disagree with BB, I don’t have to insult him to do so.

  • , 2010-04-18 06:57:10

    Medical directives and powers-of-attorney are fine, but not everyone carries them 24/7. And some hospitals have been known to disregard them. A federal rule is needed since the hospital industry as a whole refuses to respect its GLBT patients.

  • Andy, 2010-04-18 09:13:41

    I’d like to ask people to let BB have his point of view and shame on people for challenging his’s none of our business. I love that this is being regulated. I think that in time when I walk into the hospital with my partner no one will question my ability to make decisions they will simply assume I am the partner and I will make decisions. In the meantime all GLBT should continue to write living wills. This will eventually help but today we still need something to prove we are the decision maker even if its a letter stating it. Do not assumes this fixes everything. As a side note, regulation does not equal law. Regulation is only a short term fix. Some states still say sodomy as illegal. Laws not regulation should be our goal. Equality is guarenteed only when it is in law. Regulation can be changed with a pen stroke but laws as we know take years to change.

  • jimbodapimp, 2010-04-18 14:18:06

    WTF?!?! Obama is the best thing that has happened to our country in a LONG time! I can only imagine what the f’n douchebag looks like who was ranting about getting equal rights?! Obama is the President which means he has the authority to ’order’ hospitals to give gays the right to visit partners in the hospital. If he couldn’t give those orders it wouldn’t be happening...! I am tired of listening to racist bigots who like to hear themselves... If you know so much, why the puck are you not president? Remember bigotry is contagious so go lock yourself back in your closet douche BB!

  • , 2010-04-18 16:22:42

    While I do disaggre with BB, in some ways he is right. A majority of the gay community seems to still be more immature than is beneficial for themselves and other members of the community. I do however feel that this is a HUGE step for our rights as gays toward equality. While I don’t feel like Obama has done everything that was promised during his campaigning I do feel that he is giving the best effort possible to bring about change. The nation was in an awful condition after the presidency of Bush, and I can only hope that with Obama in office things will continue to improve for the LGBT community.

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