The president's memo Thursday notes that "There are few moments in our lives that call for great compassion and companionship that when a loved one is admitted to the hospital ... Yet every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides ..."The new policy applies to all hospitals receiving federal funding for Medicaid and Medicare. The memo also requires hospitals to recognize medical powers of attorney that grant a non-married, same-sex spouse the right to make medical decisions on behalf of their medically incapacitated partner.
Gay and lesbian Americans are "uniquely affected" by the relatives-only policy at hospitals, Obama said, adding that they "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 president listed widowers without children and members of certain religious orders among those who suffer under the policy.
The Washington Post reports:
The decision injects the president squarely into the debate over gay marriage by attempting to end the common practice by many hospitals of insisting that only family members by blood or marriage be allowed to visit patients.I really don't know how to react to this news. I'm grateful that if anything happens to me or my partner, the other of us will be able to have visitation rights and can make decisions. But I'm angry that this is still a piece-meal doling out of equal rights. Don't get me wrong, I think it's a huge step forward, but it's not marriage.
Gay activists have argued for years that recognizing gay marriages would ease the emotional pain associated with not being able to visit their partners during a health crisis.
By contrast, opponents of gay marriage have said the visitation issue is a red herring, and have argued that advocates want to provide special rights for gays and lesbians that others do not have.
The memorandum from Obama to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, made public late Thursday night, orders new rules that would ensure hospitals "respect the rights of patients to designate visitors."
Married couples never have to face these heart breaking scenarios. They are never denied access to to their spouses in the hospital. They will never know what it feels like to be told by a clerical employee at a hospital admissions desk that they can't be with their sick or injured partner because their relationship doesn't count. They don't have to call or write their representatives and beg them for the right to have legal recognition of a loving life-long relationship that is lived honestly, openly and unashamedly, only to be denied year after year and decade after decade by president after president.
And I am angry that my governor, Bob McDonnell and his hate-mongering henchman, Ken Cuccinelli are most likely preparing a statement, at this very moment, that says these new rules don't apply here in Virginia because of the despicable Marshall-Newman Marriage Amendment that cemented anti-gay bigotry into our state constitution. A constitutional amendment that was nothing more than a political tactic used by the hate-filled Republican Party of Virginia as an under-handed "get out the vote" scheme.
The problem with throwing scraps of meat to starving dogs is that they will happily swallow every bit of it whole and never turn it down. But a scrap is still a scrap. It doesn't fill the void in an empty belly, but it helps you forget for a few minutes that you're starving.
So thank you Mr. President and fuck you very much.