We Heart: Barack Obama’s Stand on Gay-Partner Hospital Visits

President Obama has rightfully been criticized for his slow progress on key LGBT issues, such as repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But today he deserves a hug for his White House memorandum requiring visitation rights for gay partners at hospitals receiving federal funding.

I take this ruling personally because of what happened to me 20 years ago during the first and only time I landed in a hospital.

I was experiencing an atrial fibrillation, and since I was alone and wasn’t sure what was going on with my racing heart, I called 911 and ended up in a nearby ER. As I was getting into the ambulance, my girlfriend at the time pulled up in her car and I told her where they were taking me.

At the hospital, in a curtained-off bed in the ER, I was put on a heart monitor and given Valium–but even tranquilized I was still scared. What I wouldn’t have given for a hand to hold. That’s what the woman on the other side of the curtain had–her husband was right there with her, comforting her. But when I asked after my girlfriend, I was told that she couldn’t come into the ER; she had to wait until I was assigned a room. I swear that if I’d had the comfort of a loved one right away, my heart rate would have normalized a lot sooner.

In subsequent years, when someone I love is in the hospital,  I’ve always gone around any visiting regulations–walking right into recovery rooms or ERs or ICUs without asking. And when my current partner had surgeries at Kaiser Hospital in Los Angeles, I was never restricted in visiting her.

That’s how it should be. There are too many horror stories of gay partners being blocked from seeing each other at moments of crisis and pain when they’ve most needed each other’s smile or touch.

So thank you, President Obama, for doing the right thing.

And now, how about repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and supporting same-sex marriage? We love you today, but we’re not going away.

Image of San Francisco pro-Obama rally courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/9880707@N02/ / CC BY-SA 2.0.


  1. Very well-written. I like that you thank Obama but also acknowledge that there is more to be done.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story, Michele. What happened to Janice Langbehn and her family (the horror story you link to) is incredibly heartbreaking, and she had the paperwork that should have made it possible for her to be with her partner. This is one reason why gays and lesbians need our marriages to be recognized on a federal level. As long as discrimination is the law of the land in the US, anti-gay bigots will feel empowered to dismiss and denigrate our unions, even in times of crisis. President Obama’s memorandum is, as you make clear, one step toward ensuring full civil rights for lesbian and gay citizens. Much remains to be done, and I hope he will rise to the challenge!

  3. I just want to add that I don’t think marriage ought to be a requirement for having one’s wishes honored in hospital situations. That’s part of the point the President makes in this memorandum. I do believe, however, that DOMA and state-specific bans on same-sex marriage contribute to a climate in which bonds between gays and lesbians may be more easily disregarded by those who are hostile toward us.

  4. There is a lot more to be done but this is significant – a medical emergency or a hospital stay is when one needs to be surrounded by love and support. For once rights wingers and conservatives aren’t blasting Obama and the LGBTQ community for ruining the family. Many conservatives are somewhat supportive and the Catholic Hospital Association is on board. It’s not recognition of same sex marriage and it’s not a repeal of DADT, but it is a victory of common sense and compassion over fear and hatred. Hooray!

  5. Bill Localio says:

    Michelle, your blog is an evocative account of how easily a person can be denied the essential comfort of a partner. To us heterosexuals it reminds us that discrimination can come in such a small way and still have such a large impact. Your personal story made this realization come alive. Thanks for reminding us.

  6. Andrea Cassidy says:

    Agreed, there is a lot more to be done, but this was vital. How paternalistic is the whole concept that anybody but the patient should decide who may visit?

  7. Absolutely commendable that something is finally being done about this. It’s not just gays, most hospitals I have been to also discriminate against non-married het couples. Surprosingly (or maybe not so surprisingly)interracial couples are still given a hard time. Young couples (such as highschoolers or college students, people in their 20a), people with more than one partner, etc.

  8. I think it was past time for this swift move by our President to be done.
    What a difference it will make for all unmarried couples regarding hospital visitations. Kudos to Obama for that. Now he does need to get the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” ruling reversed. As a het female, I had my baby in Toronto. Because it was a C section, my (male) partner could not hold my hand as I came out of the epidural.
    I lay in a hallway screaming in pain until someone finally showed up. After I was in a room my partner was allowed to visit, while our son was kept in isolation for obsesrvation.

  9. Barack Obama is the best democrat president in my opinion. he makes the best judgment and foreign policies.. ,

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