Saturday, April 17, 2010

President Obama Orders Visitation Rights for Gays


President Obama has ordered The Department of Health and Human Services to acknowledge the rights of gay and lesbian patients to decide who they wish to have visit and make decisions for them. This decision will greatly impact how hospitals can treat patients and their significant others. Patients who for the first time, in many states, will be able to demand that their loved ones, are treated as their primary decision makers. The Memorandum issued by President Obama on Thursday, April 15th is one long awaited by countless LGBT couples. While those of us in the LGBT community welcome this decision, there are (as always) those who are saying that it is not needed. Really? Why is it that everyone who anti-gay wants to twist the facts? Those against equal rights are claiming the directive will be a stepping stone to gay marriage. Their argument is that it is unnecessary since some states like Minnesota already have visitation rights for gays. The truth is Minnesota is only one of 3 states that allow the partners of gays visitation rights. I guess the tens of thousands of gay patients and their loved ones elsewhere should just move? It’s ridiculous to stand in the way of a patients right to have a loved one of their choosing by their side in their greatest time of need.

Countless patients are totally left out of the health care decision of their partners all across America. I myself, have seen and lived through the hardships of standing up for a hospitalized partner. A few years ago my partner was hospitalized after becoming deathly ill. He was almost in a diabetic coma. We were fortunate enough to live in New York and have all of our documents in order. We have Domestic partnership, Living Wills, Death Care Proxy, and every other legal document a gay couple needs. Documents married couples do not need. It didn’t matter that at that point we had lived together 12 years. It didn’t matter when my brother's partner died at the soon to close St. Vincent’s Hospital. I still had to argue with the nurses who tried to treat me as if I didn’t belong in the hospital. I basically slept there night and day. One nurse (named Pamela) went so far as to try to throw me out. Needless to say I held my ground. I even called for the Director of the hospital. So yes, even in states where Gays are given some rights, it is still not always an easy thing to enforce. I was also the only family member at the hospital during the week and a half that my partner was there. We laugh now, 2 years later, at the fact that the nurse who tried to keep me from my partner’s bedside later asked me to help take care of him. She turned out to be a very nice person, once she saw that we were like any other couple going through a horrible life and death situation.

I am pleased that President Obama and his administration have taken yet another move in the right direction. I know that there is a wide breach in thought among the LGBT community regarding the efforts of Pres. Obama. Change take s time. It also takes more than one man to make that change come about. It isn’t always as easy as many believe. Alas, for some like Janice Langbehn, who lost her partner , Lisa Marie Pond of an aneurysm, it is but a bittersweet victory. It is still a victory nonetheless . One that Ms Langbehn and countless others like myself, no doubt welcome.

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