"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."
With those words on April 15, 2010 President Obama directed HHS Secretary Sebelius to initiate rulemaking to ensure that hospitals that participate in Medicare and Medicaid respect the rights of patients to designate visitors. The President further advised that the rule should ensure that participating hospitals may not deny visitation privileges based on factors including sexual orientation or gender identity.
This policy impacts millions of LGBT Americans and their families. The President saw an injustice and felt very strongly about correcting this and has spoken about it often over the years. I want to thank HHS Secretary Sebelius and her team for their resolve to see this rule implemented. In fact, long before this rule was finalized, back in June, 2010 the Secretary laid the groundwork by reaching out to leaders of major hospital associations asking them to encourage their member hospitals to not wait for the formal rulemaking to run its course regarding patient-centered visitation rights suggested by the President.
This significant policy change is due in no small part to the journeys of two incredibly courageous and passionate women, Janice Langbehn and Charlene Strong. Both lived through unimaginable experiences with the loss of their wives and life partners. While I never had the opportunity to meet Janice’s wife Lisa Pond, or Charlene’s wife Kate Fleming, I have had the honor to meet and work with Janice and Charlene. I want to thank them for bringing us all into their lives and for sharing themselves and their families with us, and for using their voices to make lives better for LGBT families.
Brian Bond is Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement