The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, today welcomed news that President Barack Obama had signed a Presidential Memorandum adding vital protections for same-sex couples in matters of hospital visitation and other health care issues.
“The discrimination faced by Janice Langbehn and her children during such a tragedy should not happen to another family,” said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. “This federal recognition is an important step for gay and lesbian couples who only want the same opportunities to care for the person they love. When Americans hear personal stories like Janice’s about the hardships faced by gay and lesbian couples and their children, more and more fair-minded Americans are siding with equality.”
The memorandum directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS)
“...to ensure that hospitals that participate in Medicare or Medicaid respect the rights of patients to designate visitors. It should be made clear that designated visitors, including individuals designated by legally valid advance directives (such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies), should enjoy visitation privileges that are no more restrictive than those that immediate family members enjoy. You should also provide that participating hospitals may not deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.”
This announcment was capped off by President Obama calling Janice Langbehn from Air Force One to share the good news. Langbehn's partner of 17 years, Lisa Pond, suffered a fatal brain aneurysm at age 39 just before she, Janice, and their three children were to depart on a Caribbean cruise for gay families on February 18, 2007. She was rushed off the ship to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where officials refused to let Langbehn or their children see Pond for eight hours until a priest came to deliver her last rites, by which time Pond had already slipped into a coma. President Obama told Langbehn what happened to her was "outrageous" and offered sympathy for everything she has been through.
“GLAAD is humbled to honor and applaud this incredibly bittersweet moment,” said Barrios. “Hearing from the President pays a huge tribute to Langbehn's years of tireless work towards equality with the help of Lambda Legal, the organization that took up her lawsuit against Jackson Memorial Hospital.”
GLAAD is the first organization Langbehn turned to for help, not long after she experienced the tragic loss of her partner, Lisa Pond. GLAAD’s National News Program worked with Langbehn along her entire journey, helping her share her story to illustrate harms faced by gay and lesbian families in numerous media outlets across the country including The New York Times, and articulate the pain she and her children experienced the day they were barred from seeing Lisa in her final moments.