By Katherine Dean
With his pledge to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t tell behind him, President Obama continues his steady, albeit slow, fight for same-sex equality. Yesterday, the president issued a memo to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius ordering all hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding to grant visitation rights to gay and lesbian partners. Further, Obama’s order ensures that patients’ designation of health care proxies and power of attorney will be honored regardless of sexual orientation. And in a hugely classy move, Obama called Janice Langbehn, from Air Force One immediately after issuing the memo. In February 2007, Langbehn’s partner of 17 years, Lisa Pond, was admitted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Florida after collapsing from an aneurysm. Langbehn and the couple’s adopted children were barred from visiting Pond, who slipped into a coma and died. In September 2009, Langbehn’s lawsuit against Jackson Memorial was rejected in federal court. The president explained to Langbehn that he was moved by her story and personally apologized for how she and her family have been treated.
Thanks, Mr. President. Next step: repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Give gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans the same rights as heterosexuals.