President Obama on Thursday requested the Department of Health and Human Services to initiate a rule forbidding hospitals to deny gay and lesbian partners the right to visit each other in hospitals. He declared it the compassionate thing to do, and in a two-page memo outlined his reasons for it. Here is an initial excerpt
from that memo:
"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."
Obama goes on to discuss how gay and lesbians are barred from hospital bedsides of those they have loved for decades and aren't able to assume legal responsibilities during health emergencies. The President hopes that hospitals will follow through and not continue to deny what he considers compassionate caring during special times of crisis, especially in medical emergencies.
The President outlined some additional reasons for his request to be the negative consequences to people when doctors and nurses don't have the best information about medications and medical needs that partners are able to give. Furthermore, he observes, that some people have had to go through terrifying experiences alone, without the companionship of their loved ones.
Today Delphine Renfro Taylor and Barbara Strong are with a group of friends in Arizona who are celebrating the possibility that the President gets his way in the matter of gays and lesbians rights with respect to medical care and visitations. The women live part-time in a residential community of lesbian women, many of whom have been with each other for years. This new rule will be part of their progress to attaining full recognition as legal partners.
Taylor and Strong have been partners for 31 years. They brag they have been together longer than most married couples they know. Strong said in response to learning about the memo from the President." It's about time. It's fantastic. It would relieve our minds to know that no matter where we live or go we can be with each other during stressful times."
"Have you faced any problems yourselves?" Digital Journal asked Strong, whose partner Taylor was entertaining a group of guests at their home in Arizona. They also share a home in Washington State and travel to and from both residences during the year.
"Well, we had to have special paper work for Delphine to be able to take care of my ashes after I die. But for the most part we have been lucky. The Northwest is pretty good about most things and a lot of people take our relationship in stride. I'm just glad we might have this special protection, because the very idea that we couldn't see each other if either one of us became very ill or was dying is appalling. I hope this new rule goes into effect for the good of all of us. This is an important step in recognizing folks like us as a couple."
Before outlining the specific guidelines for initiating the rule, the President's memo tells the reader the most critical concern that gays and lesbians have had to worry about, "that all too often, people are made to suffer or even to pass away alone, denied the comfort of companionship in their final moments while a loved one is left worrying and pacing down the hall."
If the ruling becomes accepted practice, Taylor and Strong, and people like them, will know they have each other in times of crisis, which they consider a great relief.