President Obama is ordering hospitals to extend visitation rights to whomever a patient designates, including same-sex partners, tying the requirement to federal funding for Medicare and Medicaid.
"Gay and lesbian Americans are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they have spent decades of their lives -- unable to be there for the person they love," Obama said in a presidential memorandum.
The new visitation policy will apply to more than just same-sex partners. Under the order, patients can designate anyone -- a friend or a distant relative -- to be a surrogate decision-maker.
Hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding will be required to comply.
Gay and lesbian groups have been fighting for years to get hospital visitation rights, which vary by state.
"One person in a hospital can make a huge difference," said Dr. Jason Schneider, former president of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. "So I think this directive gives weight to the importance of recognizing the variety and the breadth of how people define families."
Can I just say that this is an awesome piece of news? I don't follow politics much, and when people start complaining about the health care bill and all that, I keep my mouth shut, because I don't know anything about it. But this... This is a basic right, to be with a loved one during a crisis. And the fact that many hospitals used to ban same-sex partners is just outrageous. Today is a good day. Thank the gods, thank Obama, thank logic, clarity and hope.