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.
I'm not gay or lesbian but this is a really good thing. It is about time.
YES WE CAN!!! Obama is making good on some promises now! Health care, GLBA rights, tax cuts, Dumping DADT....I love that he is willing to do things that are not always popular with everyone, but they are the right thing to do.
I'd like to see a hospital try to keep me out....
cudos to a president that just keeps doing the right things.
One more step forward toward full citizenship for people who should have already had it years ago. thank you, President Obama! let's hope the progress continues. there is no excuse for denying these American citizens the same rights we all have, and that's all they're asking for, the same rights as their fellow American citizens.
The obtuse Obama has no code of ethics or morals so go ahead and make it easy for people who chose lifestyles that do not promote wholeness to continue their self-centered, narcissistic and destructive ways! :(
I thank God I will never have to answer to God for denying people of human rights because it is God to whom we all will answer.
Bravo President Obama!
Keep up the good work.
Can't imagine why anyone would be against this.
Thank you President Obama.
I do not care how or what it is called, just as long as the gay partner gets to make the "next of kin" decisions!
good job, Mr. President. Now let's do DADT.
About time mr president.
Thank you Mr. President.
We have a President that is smart and has a heart.
It's about time! Good for him.
Leonore H. Dvorkin, author of ANOTHER CHANCE AT LIFE: A BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR'S JOURNEY (Norilana Books, 2009)
Excellent! It is truly about time.
this is awesome. im proud of you president obama.
I met my partner when I was 20, he was 19. He had a heart attack and called my name from the living room. I gave him CPR as we waited for the ambulance to arrive. They took over from that point. I certainly had no argument with them taking that course. I wanted the love of my life to live. When they took him to the hospital, I was cut out of the loop. The ambulance did not allow me to go with him, the hospital would not divulge any information to me, as I was not family. I was not allowed to be with him at all. I received a phone call from his brother 3 hours later, from 500 miles away, telling me that Danny was dead. I was 42, he was 41. How long did we have to be together to "qualify" as partners? This is a true story, one which I still live with every day. May God bless you, Barack Obama.
You know, for a first world country we sure have a lot of third world country mentality...
...and those guys even have their own party (Republicans), brave in words only, as soon as you challenge any of them they hide behind the flag, or God, or values (neither of which they really have).
Thank you Mr. President... Now, it is time to get rid of "don't ask; don't tell!"
There is humanity, above all.
BRAVO Mr. President!!!!!
And this is why Obama is so beloved wordwide – his humanity and commitment to basic human rights. It stands in such stark contrast to the previous 8 years that it goes miles beyond 'night and day' comaparisons.
What do they want Pelosi to say? "We're shaking in our boots!" Of course she is going to paint a picture of deflection. Yes, it is going to be a blood bath in November. Sorry dems, but you have it coming.