WASHINGTON (CN) – President Obama on Thursday asked the Department of Health and Human Services to create a rule that would prevent hospitals from denying gay and lesbian partners from visiting their loved ones in the hospital. “There are few moments in our lives that call for greater compassion and companionship than when a loved one is admitted to the hospital,” Obama wrote in a 2-page memo.
“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. Every day, all across America, patients are denied the kidnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides.”
Under Obama’s proposal, hospitals that participate in Medicare or Medicaid will “respect the rights of patients to designate visitors,” according to the memo.
“You should also provide that participating hospitals may not deny visitation priviliges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability,” the memo states.
He also asked for feedback within 180 days on actions the department can take to address visitation rights “that affect LGBT parents and their families.”
Obama says not only are gays and lesbians affected by the relatives-only policy at hospitals; he also seeks to allow widows and widowers without children and members of certain religious groups to select who can visit them in the hospital.
In his memo, Obama pointed out that North Carolina recently amended its Patients’ Bill of Rights to give each individual “the right to designate visitors who shall receive the same visitation privileges as the patient’s immediate family members, regardless of whether the visitors are legally related to the patient.”
Delaware, Nebraska and Minnesota have adopted similar laws, according to the memo.