Barack Obama | Health | News

Obama Orders Hospitals to Grant Same-Sex Couples Visitation Rights and Medical Power of Attorney

Very interesting, significant, and a long time coming.

READ the memorandum HERE.

The Washington Post reports:Obama  

"President Obama on Thursday signed a memorandum requiring hospitals to allow gays and lesbians to have non-family visitors and to grant their partners medical power of attorney. The president ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to prohibit discrimination in hospital visitation. The memo is scheduled to be made public Friday morning, according to an administration official and another source familiar with the White House decision. An official said the new rule will affect any hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding."

The paper notes: "The decision injects the president squarely into the debate over gay marriage by attempting to end the common practice by many hospitals of insisting that only family members by blood or marriage be allowed to visit patients."

HOWEVER, the memo closes (READ IT HERE) : "This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person."

Still, a powerful step in the right direction. Let's hope it's not (as I fear it might be) strategically timed to try to quash disappointment over stalling, inaction, and/or loss on some of the larger and more comprehensive issues that are pending in our legislature, like ENDA and DADT.

From the NYT: "Richard Socarides, who advised President Bill Clinton on gay rights issues, said that while the memorandum on its own does not grant any new rights, it 'does draw attention to the very real and tragic situations many gays and lesbians face when a partner is hospitalized.' Ordering the Department of Health and Human Services to find a better way to handle such situations, Mr. Socarides said, is 'the kind of thing the gay community was hoping Obama would do right after he was inaugurated.'"

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  1. Hallelujah!

    This is FANTASTIC step in the right direction!

    Could this actually signal that he's finally going to step up to the plate on gay issues and start doing meaningful things for us?

    Dare I hope?

    Posted by: rich | Apr 15, 2010 8:02:55 PM

  2. Fantastic! Keep going Mr. President, there’s still a lot of promises to keep...

    Posted by: ichabod | Apr 15, 2010 8:09:47 PM

  3. good

    Posted by: steve | Apr 15, 2010 8:16:01 PM

  4. gee whiz Mr. President, if you just allowed us to get married...

    Posted by: wtf | Apr 15, 2010 8:17:47 PM

  5. Having been rushed to two emergency rooms this year in Hawaii, both times with my husband(legal in MA, not in HI) by my side, I can appreciate the significance of this act. Both times we had to take those extra minutes to be sure the paperwork was with us. This memorandum takes that extra stress away. Nice job Mr. President...keep the momentum going.

    I am, however, happy to report that BOTH hospitals treated us as married and never asked to see the health care directives...but there are many parts of this country where that would NOT have been the case.

    Posted by: HawaiiBill | Apr 15, 2010 8:18:24 PM

  6. Great news, keep going! That's definitely change.

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | Apr 15, 2010 8:18:54 PM

  7. He's a fierce advocate - just a really, really slow, draggy fierce advocate. Like if Tim Conway's old man ("Dwayne") character from "The Carol Burnett Show" were President.

    A bait-and-switchin', Rick Warren-invitin' fierce advocate.

    Not that I don't appreciate this step. But it's very late in coming.

    Posted by: Middle American | Apr 15, 2010 8:22:37 PM

  8. I finally feel proud of a President for whom I worked hard to elect, and with whom I became so disillusioned early in his term. With little more than lip service and ceremony, I helped to organize the National Equality March last October, and stopped contributing money to the Democrats and giving time to Organizing for America.

    At last! Keep moving forward, Mr. President!

    Posted by: Bryan | Apr 15, 2010 8:23:56 PM

  9. I think a lot of the President's agenga on LGBT issues will be done in a low key manner. I don't need the big show, as long as the substantive stuff gets done.

    Posted by: Alberto | Apr 15, 2010 8:25:01 PM

  10. Thank you, Obama!

    Posted by: KFLO | Apr 15, 2010 8:51:18 PM

  11. This is very important. It's not everything but it's moving in the right direction. I think when history looks back it will show that Obama moved too slowly for some but did move in the right direction.

    Posted by: dbfeb | Apr 15, 2010 8:58:00 PM

  12. Freakin' AWESOME!!!

    (cue the anti-obama gargoyles with the "but it's not EVEYTHING I WANT FOR XMAS! in 5...4...3...2...1)

    Posted by: Marty | Apr 15, 2010 8:58:35 PM

  13. Sorry, I'm a bit slow with legal stuff. What does the last part mean about "This does not create a benefit enforceable by law" etc.?

    Posted by: Harrison | Apr 15, 2010 9:13:02 PM

  14. To clarify a legal issue that the original post seems to hint at, it's fairly standard that the Memo doesn't create any substantive rights. The regulations promulgated by the Secretary of HHS as a result of the Memo theoretically could, but the courts have been pretty clear that Medicare/Medicaid regulations of hospitals/health care providers/doctors re not directly enforceable by a private person's lawsuit (in jargon, they do not create a "private right of action". So that last provision doesn't really have anything to do with the substantive issue.

    Posted by: lglegl | Apr 15, 2010 9:15:04 PM

  15. Thank you Mr President!

    Posted by: Greg Broderick | Apr 15, 2010 9:17:51 PM

  16. when you think about this and hate crimes in about 18 months obama really has been making progress. A vote on ENDA is also quickly approaching.

    Obama wont get anything done on DOMA until (if there is one) his second term, if even then.

    If he could get ENDA he really will have brought gay rights further than any past president.

    Lets rally around this guy- he might not be a fierce advocate, but at least he his an advocate.

    Posted by: Travis | Apr 15, 2010 9:27:24 PM

  17. It creates no rights. These are rights, not privileges, and this amounts to permission to enjoy your rights...but only temporarily. I suspect this is damage control for ENDA's uncertain future and no real movement on DADT repeal. Not gonna work.

    Posted by: TANK | Apr 15, 2010 9:28:52 PM

  18. Yeah this is fucking huge and if you say otherwise - suck it.

    Posted by: CatCrapper | Apr 15, 2010 9:29:05 PM

  19. This isn't "freaking huge" by any means. It's nice for sure but still a crumb as it grants zero rights and just issues a warning of sorts. This is completely unenforceable and just more words by our President.

    Posted by: Cory | Apr 15, 2010 9:39:49 PM

  20. As noted in the later thread....supposedly this is because his heart went out to a lesbian who wasn't allowed to see her partner who died.

    But that happened TWO YEARS before he was sworn in. WHAT TOOK HIM 15 MONTHS TO GET AROUND TO THIS AND note it only directs they "INITIATE rulemaking." At the ice-glacier speed his Administration works, hospitalized LGBTs and their loved ones won't benefit from this for months and months...just like implementing lifting the HIV travel ban took ages even tho it was waiting on his desk when he was sworn in after Bush had already signed it, and those crumbs of benefits for the partners of gay federal employees STILL haven't been implemented nearly a year after they announced them in the wake of the boycott of the DNC LGBT fundraiser.

    Now in the middle of the harshest criticism yet for his failure to keep his promise to PERSONALLY FIGHT for repeal of DADT... as the curtain is being ripped off of the ObamaRahm/Gates conspiracy to kill repeal by running out the clock....and days before TV screens are going to show him being met by another huge protest of screaming, angry gays when he comes to L.A. Monday to fundraiser for Barbara Boxer....comes another serving of pie in the sky. At least this one's in POTUS-writing unlike his promises re DADT, ENDA, and DOMA.

    Per se, I don't have any problem with someone doing the right thing for the wrong reason. And another benefit is that it's the second time he's shown us he knows how to use a pen with lavender ink.

    NOW, when he actually shows some courage to use that pen for something that Troglodytic Senators and Generals aren't squealing about and entire organizations don't exist to stop like using his legal powers to freeze discharges which he declared months ago weaken national security and which would NOT require months and months of delays like lifting the HIV travel ban, extending minor partner benefits, and simply opening hospital doors and doctors' ears have and are, call me.

    Posted by: Michael @ | Apr 15, 2010 10:04:38 PM

  21. This is a nice step, unless it's the ENDA/DOMA/DADT consolation prize.

    Posted by: Dickster | Apr 15, 2010 10:27:24 PM

  22. Crumbs from the table of joy.

    Posted by: yonkersconquers | Apr 15, 2010 10:45:16 PM

  23. "call me"

    If you promise to dial down the hysteria in the meantime, I'll gladly give you a call.

    Posted by: BobN | Apr 15, 2010 10:57:12 PM

  24. To those of you who are bitter--you're typical short-sighted queens.

    This is extremely beneficial, if not only for the fact that Republicans that will inevitably criticize and fight it, will be made to look like the absolutely horrible, inhuman pieces of shit that they actually are. Americans overwhelmingly support hospital visitation rights for same-sex partners. It's common sense to even the craziest of crazies.

    Posted by: Derek in Madison | Apr 15, 2010 11:10:54 PM

  25. Derek, I agree, but it should not have taken this long. The memo was issued today. The report back from HHS is 6 months away. Then they have to write the rules based on HHS's report and publish them in the Federal Register. Then there is a comment period/period of review before the rules go into place. Best case scenario, we're looking at April of next year at best for when this actually gets implemented and is in effect.

    And there are a lot of other things that need to be done, things that can be done that don't need any Congressional approval. See the NGLTF's New Beginnings Initiative. Out of the 82 items on that list, the administration has done only 15 months.

    Posted by: Craig | Apr 15, 2010 11:49:58 PM

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