Hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples
President Obama ordered hospitals yesterday to extend visitation rights to gay and lesbian couples. The order applies to hospitals that receive Medicaid or Medicare funding -- which is the vast majority nationwide -- and builds off similar measures in states such as Maryland.
Here, lawmakers passed legislation in 2008 giving unmarried couples a number of health-related rights, such as medical and funeral decision-making and hospital visitation. It was seen as a huge victory by gay rights advocates who fought for a number of bills including same-sex marriage legislation, which failed.
The president's order has little effect on Maryland's hospitals which have "been doing this for years," said Jessica Jackson, a spokeswoman at the Maryland Hospital Association.
Nevertheless, specifying that same-sex couples can no longer be treated any differently than heterosexual couples when it comes to visitation has been hailed as a huge step toward equality by gay rights supporters. Meanwhile, some opponents called the order "pandering," and that it "undermines the definition of marriage," the WSJ reports.
Said Obama in his memo:"There are few moments in our lives that call for greater compassion and companionship than when a loved one is admitted to the hospital. In these hours of need and moments of pain and anxiety, all of us would hope to have a hand to hold, a shoulder on which to lean -- a loved one to be there for us, as we would be there for them."
"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...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."