President Obama’s decision to issue a gay visitation order to hospitals across the land was intentionally done quietly on Thursday when everyone was focused on their taxes and the Iceland volcano news. Read the story here and tell us what you think in the comments.

gay visitation order


For months the administration has been quietly sending bones to gay interest groups in Washington. The gay lobby has been urging very bold and very public action for same-sex couples but Obama has chosen a different course.

Obama has attempted to keep the pacification of gay interests under the radar. His aides argue that more can be done slowly over time than having a visible public fight on their hands. As one example, without the usual public trumpeting that accompanies such changes, the state department began quietly issuing embassy IDs for the partners of diplomats in same-sex relationships.

One of his leading candidates to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, Elena Kagan, has been reported as gay in the media, although she has not officially come out of the closet if those rumors are true. Yet rather than acknowledge it or yawn the gossip away as irrelevant, the White House took the unusual step of overtly denying that Elena Kagan is lesbian and asking CBS News to remove an article written by one of its columnists about her sexual orientation.

Obama simply does not want to fight about gay issues which is why the gay visitation order was done quietly on a busy news day without a public ceremony. He clearly does not want this issue potentially clouding the fight for a Supreme Court appointment.

The full executive order on hospital visitation rights for gay couples is below. The official version on Whitehouse.gov contains three spelling errors which we have corrected in our version. Why Obama takes six hundred words to write what anyone else can say in ten is your guess, but we know our wordy president has never met a long-winded sentence he didn’t like.

April 15th, 2010
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

SUBJECT: Respecting the Rights of Hospital Patients to Receive Visitors and to Designate Surrogate Decision Makers for Medical Emergencies

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.

Yet every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides — whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay. Often, a widow or widower with no children is denied the support and comfort of a good friend. Members of religious orders are sometimes unable to choose someone other than an immediate family member to visit them and make medical decisions on their behalf. Also uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans who 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.

For all of these Americans, the failure to have their wishes respected concerning who may visit them or make medical decisions on their behalf has real consequences. It means that doctors and nurses do not always have the best information about patients’ medications and medical histories and that friends and certain family members are unable to serve as intermediaries to help communicate patients’ needs. It means that a stressful and at times terrifying experience for patients is senselessly compounded by indignity and unfairness. And it means that all too often, people are made to suffer or even to pass away alone, denied the comfort of companionship in their final moments while a loved one is left worrying and pacing down the hall.

Many States have taken steps to try to put an end to these problems. North Carolina recently amended its Patients’ Bill of Rights to give each patient “the right to designate visitors who shall receive the same visitation privileges as the patient’s immediate family members, regardless of whether the visitors are legally related to the patient” — a right that applies in every hospital in the State. Delaware, Nebraska, and Minnesota have adopted similar laws.

My Administration can expand on these important steps to ensure that patients can receive compassionate care and equal treatment during their hospital stays. By this memorandum, I request that you take the following steps:

1. Initiate appropriate rule making, pursuant to your authority under 42 U.S.C. 1395x and other relevant provisions of law, to ensure that hospitals that participate in Medicare or Medicaid respect the rights of patients to designate visitors. It should be made clear that designated visitors, including individuals designated by legally valid advance directives (such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies), should enjoy visitation privileges that are no more restrictive than those that immediate family members enjoy. You should also provide that participating hospitals may not deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national
origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The rulemaking should take into account the need for hospitals to restrict visitation in medically appropriate circumstances as well as the clinical decisions that medical professionals make about a patient’s care or treatment.

2. Ensure that all hospitals participating in Medicare or Medicaid are in full compliance with regulations, codified at 42 CFR 482.13 and 42 CFR 489.102(a), promulgated to guarantee that all patients’ advance directives, such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies, are respected, and that patients’ representatives otherwise have the right to make informed decisions regarding patients’ care. Additionally, I request that you issue new guidelines, pursuant to your authority under 42 U.S.C. 1395cc and other relevant provisions of law, and provide technical assistance on how hospitals participating in Medicare or Medicaid can best comply with the regulations and take any additional appropriate measures to fully enforce the regulations.

3. Provide additional recommendations to me, within 180 days of the date of this memorandum, on actions the Department of Health and Human Services can take to address hospital visitation, medical decision making, or other health care issues that affect LGBT patients and their families.

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.

You are hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA

Hospitals are free not to follow the guidance, however, they will not by disqualified from receiving public Medicare or Medicaid funding.

So now that you’ve read it, what are your thoughts on Obama’s Gay visitation order? Please leave your thoughts below in the comments.