Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama has told the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a rule that would not allow hospitals to deny visitation privileges to gay and lesbian partners.
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 ... "
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."
Obama requested that the regulation should make clear that any hospital receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding, which mean the vast majority of U.S. hospitals, to allow patients to decide who can visit them and prohibit discrimination based on a variety of characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
The president listed widowers without children and members of certain religious orders among those who suffer under the policy.
The memo is a major step toward supporting the rights of gays and lesbians who have used the restrictions on hospital visitation as an argument in favor of same-sex marriage.
"In the absence of gay people being able to legally marry in most jurisdictions, this is a step to rectify a gross inequity," said David Smith,
an executive at the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group. "Because without gay marriage, much more inequities exist, it should be applauded."
Smith said the organization had been working with the Obama administration for months on the request, and that it was sparked by the case
of a Florida lesbian couple who were kept apart as one died from an aneurysm. The rule would help hundreds of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families, he said.
Obama's memo also requires the HHS regulations to guarantee that all patients' advance directives - such as who should make health care decision if the patient isn't able to do so - and direct the department to look into any other health care barriers that pose challenges to such families and make recommendations to the president on them within 180 days.
– CNN's Devon Sayers and Samira Simone contributed to this report.
Add another title to President NObama: Whimp-in-Chief.
Any executive orders or legislating based on what two people do behind closed doors is stupid.
Perhaps a good compromise is to be "friends" and leave it at that. Sort of an "don't ask don't tell" agreement. And see your, um, lover.
Just don't order it., Mr. President.
There are better things to do with your time, Barry O, than playing sensitive guy to the gay lobby.
I hope this really becomes possible. It's cruel and unusual punishment to deny gays visitation to their loved ones in hospital or any other medical center. It's a Human Rights Violation actually. Good for Obama.. Some sane news in the midst of a lot of insanity.
Gosh, a compassionate and intelligent individual, as I expected President Obama to be. I wonder how the naysayers will attack him for this, not that I want to really know how they feel. They will once again show their intollerance and hatred. It astounds and saddens me that these sites such as this give them so many opportunities to express their ugly points of view.
It's about time the Nation came into the 21st century. Thanks again Mr. President for keeping another campaign promise.
It is about time!
Yoo hoo! All they need is a medical POA and they can make decisions for each other, the same as any other person in America. If someone can't plan ahead and have the paperwork done, then, oh well.
BRAVO, Mr. President. That's progress! That's change we can believe in!
Well God bless him. It's long overdue that this dispicable exercise of discrimination be done away with.
There is not a single valid reason why hospitals should ever have had the right to deny gay partners visitation rights...
While I don't agree with same sex maraiges I do believe that loved ones and significant others have a right morally to be at the bedside of their loved ones in time of need. Very moral thing to do President Obama. The President is doing an awesome job with doing morally correct thing in his first year....and I'm a republican!
Thank GOD! About time!
Thank you, Mr. President, for this common sense, compassionate approach to providing assistance, support, love and companionship to people in their time of need.
I'm straight and I'm proud of your leadership, Mr. President!
Thank you Obama!!!!! Keep this up and we may actually achieve equality for all Americans!!
I could careless about this! I wish people would focus on things that matter. Let's start supporting the man we elected! This mess we are in was not created by the Obama adminstration. I think this is a amazing president he is fair and honest about where we are. I think we need to look at the man in the mirror especially Bush adminstration supporters! It took eight years to collaspe our economy so I'm looking forward to President Obama's eight years of rebuilding it! I love and support my President! I no longer feel left out of the process.