April 15th, 2010
08:30 PM ET
13 years ago

Obama orders hospital visitation rights for gays, lesbians

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/15/art.getty.inaug.obama.speec.jpg caption="President Obama told the Department of Health and Human Services Thursday to establish a rule that would not allow hospitals to deny visitation privileges to gay and lesbian partners."]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.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Bessy

    I'm not gay or lesbian but this is a really good thing. It is about time.

    April 15, 2010 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  2. Bethy

    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.

    April 15, 2010 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  3. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    I'd like to see a hospital try to keep me out....

    April 15, 2010 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  4. m smith

    cudos to a president that just keeps doing the right things.

    April 15, 2010 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  5. liz the First

    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.

    April 15, 2010 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  6. aware

    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! 🙁

    April 15, 2010 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  7. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    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.

    April 15, 2010 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  8. Leah Texas

    Bravo President Obama!
    Keep up the good work.

    April 15, 2010 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  9. Kari

    Can't imagine why anyone would be against this.

    April 15, 2010 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  10. Yasmine

    how compassionate

    April 15, 2010 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  11. An 8 year old ELEPHANT dung heap, does not transform into compost in just 1 year!

    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!

    April 15, 2010 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  12. cassamandra

    good job, Mr. President. Now let's do DADT.

    April 15, 2010 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  13. Helen

    About time mr president.

    April 15, 2010 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  14. Daniel

    Thank you Mr. President.

    April 15, 2010 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  15. Blue

    We have a President that is smart and has a heart.

    April 15, 2010 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  16. Leonore Dvorkin

    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)

    April 15, 2010 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  17. kelly

    Excellent! It is truly about time.

    April 15, 2010 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  18. nathan smith ga

    this is awesome. im proud of you president obama.

    April 15, 2010 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  19. Dan Chapman

    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.

    April 15, 2010 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  20. Darth Vadik, CA

    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).

    April 15, 2010 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  21. SC-Pub "no" more

    Thank you Mr. President... Now, it is time to get rid of "don't ask; don't tell!"

    April 15, 2010 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  22. Tammy

    There is humanity, above all.

    April 15, 2010 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  23. Jilli

    BRAVO Mr. President!!!!!

    April 15, 2010 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  24. SteveB

    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.

    April 15, 2010 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  25. Shelly

    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.

    April 15, 2010 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
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