President Barack Obama has ordered hospitals in America to stop barring people in same-sex relationships from visiting their sick partners.
Obama signed a presidential memorandum on Thursday directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to promulgate a regulation requiring all hospitals that receive federal funding – nearly every hospital in America – to allow patients to designate who may visit them.
It will further prohibit discrimination in visitation rights based on a number of factors, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
“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,” said Obama in the memorandum.
The move was inspired by the tragic experience of lesbian partners Lisa Pond and Janice Langbehn in which Janice, and the couple’s children, were kept from Lisa’s bedside by a Miami hospital as she lay dying.
“No one should experience what befell the Pond-Langbehn family, and the President’s action today will help ensure that the indignities Janice and her children faced do not happen to another family,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.
The memorandum also calls on the Secretary to issue new guidance and provide technical assistance to hospitals to help them comply with existing federal regulations that require them to respect individuals’ advanced healthcare directives and other documents establishing who should make healthcare decisions for them when they are unable to do so.
The memorandum also directs the HHS to conduct a larger study of the barriers LGBT people and their families face in accessing healthcare.