The President's Big Gay-Rights Move

He orders hospitals to provide access for same-sex couples.

The President’s Big Gay-Rights Move

He orders hospitals to provide access for same-sex couples.

-Jane Farrell

gay rights

President Obama has told federal officials to begin drafting laws that would allow gay and lesbian couples to see each other in hospitals, and to make critical medical decisions for each other.

The new regulations are to cover hospitals that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, meaning almost every hospital in the United States. Under the rules, gay and lesbian couples cannot be denied the right to visit, as they have been because they some hospitals have refused to view them as immediate family members. Couples will also be given the right to name and represent each other in “advance medical directives” like living wills and proxies.

The directive is noteworthy because it explicitly says that visitation and decisions about care cannot be denied on the basis of sexual orientation. At present, there are no federal laws prohibiting sexual-orientation discrimination in any area, including employment and housing.

Read Ellen DeGeneres Named Most Influential Gay Person in the U.S.

According to the Huffington Post, the President was prompted to issue the directive partly because of an article in The New York Times about two lesbians in Miami. While one of the women was dying, hospital officials kept the two apart despite the couple’s advance directive saying they wanted each other to have full visitation rights.

The Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights organization, called the directive “an important action” in achieving equality for lesbians and gay men. (Huffington Post)

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