Yesterday, Janice Langbehn received a Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor. Janice was welcomed to the White House along with 12 other recipients to receive the medal. Since 1969, presidents have been awarding the Citizens Medal to individuals who have performed exemplary deeds of service to their country or their fellow citizens. Speaking about this year’s recipients, President Obama said, “They exemplify the best of what it means to be an American, and I am honored to be able to offer them a small token of our appreciation.”
Janice’s service to her fellow citizens stemmed from personal tragedy. While on vacation in South Florida with her family, Janice’s partner, Lisa Pond, suffered a brain aneurysm and had to be hospitalized. At the hospital in Miami, a social worker informed Janice that she was in an “anti-gay city and state,” and neither Janice nor their three young children were allowed to see Lisa before she died. Feeling devastated and wronged by the hospital’s actions, Janice sought help from GLAAD and Lambda Legal in filing a federal lawsuit that elevated her story to the national level. When President Obama heard of her abhorrent ordeal, he personally apologized to Janice and her family and eventually revised hospital visitation protections for lesbian and gay couples. Janice has since become an icon and an advocate for LGBT equality.
GLAAD congratulates Janice Langbehn on receiving this prestigious honor and thanks her for courageously sharing her story of loss to draw attention to inequality and make a difference for the LGBT community.