From The Washington Post:
President Obama mandated Thursday that nearly all hospitals extend visitation rights to the partners of gay men and lesbians and respect patients’ choices about who may make critical health-care decisions for them, perhaps the most significant step so far in his efforts to expand the rights of gay Americans.
From The Los Angeles Times:
In a memo to his Health and Human Services agency, Obama ordered the secretary to ensure that all hospitals getting Medicare and Medicaid money honor all patients’ advance directives, including those designating who gets family visitation privileges.
The order also requires that documents granting power of attorney and healthcare proxies be honored, regardless of sexual orientation. The language could apply to unmarried heterosexual couples too.
The presence of loved ones is more important during a hospital stay than at any other time, Obama wrote in his memo. Yet widows and widowers with no children are often denied the “support and comfort of a good friend,” he said, as are members of religious orders.
From The Wall Street Journal:
It is common practice for hospitals to deny visitation to non-family members. Gay rights activists have cited these restrictions as cause for why they need the right to marry.
It was unclear how much opposition the policy would create. A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R, Ohio) had no comment Thursday, nor did Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, a trade group. that represents for-profit hospitals
Peter Sprigg, senior fellow at the socially conservative Family Research Council, said his group had no objection to allowing gay and lesbian patients to visit or make decisions for their partners. But he said the order “undermines the definition of marriage.” He also said it furthers “a big government federal takeover of even the smallest details of the nation’s health care system.”
“In its current political context, President Obama’s memorandum clearly constitutes pandering to a radical special interest group,” he said.
From The New York Times:
The memorandum is intended to “help ensure that patients will be able to face difficult times in hospitals with compassion, dignity and respect,” a White House spokesman, Shin Inouye, said Thursday night. “By taking these steps, we can better protect the interests and needs of patients that are gay or lesbian, widows and widowers with no children, members of religious orders, or others for whom their loved ones are not always immediate relatives. Because all Americans should be able to have loved ones there for them in their time of need.”
I’m certain that many will decry this as the end of civilization as we know it, but it seems this is not a matter of special rights but of civil rights. Should any American adult be allowed to choose the person to make medical decisions for them or be with them in a time of need? Yes. Why not? Should any American be able to choose who visits them in the hospital? Yes. We are allowed to deny visitation privileges to anyone we choose, why not be able to extend visitation privileges to anyone we choose?
There are some citizens of America who have been ostracized by their families, haven’t spoken to parents/siblings/children in years, who have another circle of friends with whom they spend their entire lives, yet are not married. They are called single Christians. Lacking family, shall these be denied the right to have a pastor, small group leader or mentor make medical decisions for them in the event of an emergency? As American citizens they should be allowed that right and, for those of us who are Christians, we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Evangelicals and political conservatives should be careful in criticizing this move. Prohibitions against gay marriage are still in tact at the federal level and the President has maintained that position himself. To equate this as the same as gay marriage or another slip on the downward slope will not come across as against a homosexual lifestyle, but against Americans who are homosexual.
I, in fact, wonder if the push for gay marriage might have been tempered a bit if evangelicals and other followers of Christ had pushed for equal civil rights in areas like this, rather than painting so much as special rights and lining up against it. The pro-gay lobby in America now holds the ability to ratchet down the culture wars by slowing the gay marriage train enough to enjoy the tremendous blessing they’ve just been given rather than steaming up the boiler for a run in a different area. Time will tell if that caution is exercised.
A person can hold that homosexuality, like adultery and other immorality, is sin and be against gay marriage, yet believe that gay Americans have rights just like gun-toting American, hetero-sexual Americans, truck driving Americans and flower growing Americans. I’m opposed to gay marriage, but I’m not opposed to Americans who are homosexual having all the rights afforded them under the constitution, just as I am not opposed to the extension of protected rights to hetero-sexual adulterers, the prideful and the greedy.