One small step
April 15, 2010 8:52 PM   Subscribe

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES -- By this memorandum, I request that you take the following steps: 1. Initiate appropriate rulemaking, pursuant to your authority under 42 U.S.C. 1395x and other relevant provisions of law, 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. The rulemaking should take into account the need for hospitals to restrict visitation in medically appropriate circumstances as well as the clinical decisions that medical professionals make about a patient's care or treatment. -- BARACK OBAMA

Janice Langbehn (previously), who was denied access to her dying partner's hospital room in 2007, was among the first to know.
posted by peachfuzz (99 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
YES!!!!!!!!!!!

Good for him. He's let the GLBT communities down on other issues, but he absolutely did the right thing here.
posted by zarq at 8:55 PM on April 15, 2010


Agreed. A victory for common sense and common decency.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:57 PM on April 15, 2010


Furthermore, this may be a very good thing for gay marriage and other gay rights issues. A lot of people get angry and irrational about gay marriage, but it's a lot harder to convince yourself someone should be kept away from a dying loved one simply because of their orientation.

Maybe we need a series of little steps like this that appeal to people's basic humanity.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:00 PM on April 15, 2010


Definitely! And it ticks me off to realize that this was achievable by a simple Executive Order. It should have been done sooner.

But still, better late than never!
posted by darkstar at 9:01 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry, Obama, but it doesn't mean a damn thing unless DOMA — the law you and your Department of Justice support — gets repealed. This could easily be challenged and overturned in federal court.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:02 PM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry, Obama, but it doesn't mean a damn thing

Actually what it means is people weren't always able to visit their same-sex partners in the hospital, but now they can.
posted by one_bean at 9:04 PM on April 15, 2010 [66 favorites]


Please, demonstrate how Obama supports DOMA. Or is this the same tired "I don't understand that DoJ lawyers have an ethical obligation to defend the government in lawsuits, even when sued over a law that the President wants to repeal"?
posted by kafziel at 9:04 PM on April 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Or, you know what, don't. This is a fantastic thing that will make life a lot better for people in very bad situations. Let's look at that instead of rehashing the same tired nonsense.
posted by kafziel at 9:05 PM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ok that final link made me cry. Damn. When he gets it right he gets it right.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 9:06 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's look at that instead of rehashing the same tired nonsense.

This. Unlikely as it may be.

This is a truly excellent development - and (at least for me - perhaps I should have been paying more attention) completely out of the blue. A really cheering thing to read about just before heading to bed.
posted by AdamCSnider at 9:08 PM on April 15, 2010 [3 favorites]



Tonight on Fox : OBAMA is going to force you to have a gay marriage if you go to the hospital!!!
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:09 PM on April 15, 2010 [16 favorites]


I'm hearing the first electronic purrs as Scotty begins to manipulate the slide potentiometers on the Big Gay Transporter Pad.
posted by adipocere at 9:10 PM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Incremental progress is bad, apparently.
posted by empath at 9:10 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Next is to get the Financial Reform bill done with and then finally repeal that silly don't ask don't tell policy.

Then fingers crossed something gets done to recognize homosexual civil unions.
posted by Allan Gordon at 9:10 PM on April 15, 2010


Is it enough? No. Is it awesome? Yes.
posted by KathrynT at 9:12 PM on April 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ignore the troll. Hooray for progress!
posted by mattdidthat at 9:12 PM on April 15, 2010




This made me tear up a bit. He gets a lot of criticism from a lot of my friends on this issue, to the point where I wonder if I'm a complete fool for supporting him.

Maybe I'm just not cynical enough, but this goes a long way for me. Good for him.
posted by jnaps at 9:16 PM on April 15, 2010


Yeah, that'd be cool if presidents could ignore laws that they didn't like.

I remember the last time we had a president who did that it didn't work out so well.
posted by Allan Gordon at 9:17 PM on April 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


\m/ >_< \m/

One short memo for man,
One giant leap for America.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:17 PM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]




From the last link:

For the past 3 years I have been speaking at large and small events – posting here on the blog and have been saying over and over – that holding someone’s hand as they die is NOT a GAY right it’s a HUMAN right – and today – President Barack Obama agreed with me. [emphasis mine]

That really says it all, right there. How could any rational human being want to keep a dying person's loved ones from being by their side?
posted by amyms at 9:39 PM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


DOJ attorneys have an obligation to be legal advocates on behalf of the US government's legal positions.

To some people, it was okay to call John Yoo's defense of torturing detainees and their children "enhanced interrogation". That may not make it right for everyone. Either way, the DOJ is part of the executive cabinet.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:40 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can you stop trolling. I come here because it's one of the few communities that doesn't except it. DOJ attorneys defend federal laws. Some of them are morally wrong and some aren't, but whatever the case they must defend them. Obama cannot just repeal the DOMA since it's a law. Perhaps you don't understand how the branches of government work, but it's legislative issue.

The torture of enemy combatants was and has always been illegal, so you're making a false equivalence, but you're a troll so big surprise.
posted by Allan Gordon at 9:48 PM on April 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm not trolling and I'll keep flagging that stuff, FWIW.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:49 PM on April 15, 2010


How could any rational human being want to keep a dying person's loved ones from being by their side?

Because it's a sin and they are already so close to heaven! HAMBURGER
posted by benzenedream at 9:50 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Then make rationale arguments and actually respond to the counter arguments instead of just shrieking the same things over and over. We get it you don't like DOMA, but again it's a legislative issue. There also isn't really much of a point to bring it up in this thread unless you wanted to start an internet argument which is acceptable. However since the way you argue is similar to a troll it doesn't really matter if you think you're trolling or not since it yields the same reaction. So either grow up and create a better argument or I guess keep saying the same things over and over and of course flagging anyone who disagrees with you.
posted by Allan Gordon at 9:52 PM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm glad Obama did this.
posted by rtha at 9:56 PM on April 15, 2010


There also isn't really much of a point to bring it up in this thread unless you wanted to start an internet argument which is acceptable

I assumed I was allowed to express my opinion about the upsides or downsides of President Obama's decision, like anyone else here. Apparently that's not the case. My apologies for not agreeing with the group 100%.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:57 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, but it doesn't mean anything unless Obama actually has sex with a man in uniform which, let's face it, would be pretty hot.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:58 PM on April 15, 2010 [14 favorites]


I just said it was fine to express your opinion. Really stop trolling. If you're going to make an argument then make a good one and defend it instead of crying that people disagree with you.
posted by Allan Gordon at 10:00 PM on April 15, 2010


I think I'll just keep flagging and moving on. Thanks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:02 PM on April 15, 2010


He's not trolling, he's just expressing his honestly held opinion. The fact is, repealing DOMA is not up to Obama, and is probably not going to happen any time soon, unless it gets done in this upcoming lame duck session. It's not a priority of the administration right now.

If gay rights happen to be your top priority, it must be frustrating. Though I'm not sure what the point of dismissing real progress is.
posted by empath at 10:06 PM on April 15, 2010


[Please let's have more of the actually moving on and less of the declaring that you're flagging or the arguing about trolling-or-not. Metatalk is there if anyone needs it.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:07 PM on April 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


If he's not trolling then why doesn't he respond to the argument that DOMA is not up to Obama. He ignored it and then talked about flagging. Whatever he is doing it's not constructive and just promoting ignorance.
posted by Allan Gordon at 10:10 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


repealing DOMA is not up to Obama

I never said it was — let me make this perfectly clear: I never said that — but it is up to his DOJ to enforce it, and it is a law he has expressed support of in the past, while running as a candidate. Specifically, he has said that recognition of a same-sex relationship is a "states-rights" matter. If he can push Congress to pass healthcare reform, I don't see why he can't publicly back the repeal of DOMA, if he really is against it. What this does, what I worry about, is that this could set up years of legal challenges that push the repeal of DOMA back even further.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:11 PM on April 15, 2010


You need to provide evidence of his support of DOMA during any of his campaigns. During the election he ran on a campaign that called for the repeal of DOMA which he has not delivered on, but he has never supported it.

Perhaps I was wrong but when you compared the illegal actions of John Yoo and the completely legal actions of the DOJ attorneys who represented the government in the case against DOMA it left a bad taste in my mouth.

I am definitely not an expert on Obama's views on same sex marriage, but I believe he is for civil unions rather than marriages. If anything I agree with this view and I think that marriage should have no legal function at all. Civil unions are a much better way to approach this matter for homosexual and straight couples.
posted by Allan Gordon at 10:19 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


What strikes me as interesting is how Obama has managed to time this so well along with hitting just the right angle. The Republican opposition is obviously more interested in saving their vitriol for the Supreme Court nomination, particularly since this is a humanitarian issue.

I think this is rather good news, and not just for same-sex couples.
posted by Saydur at 10:19 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


If he can push Congress to pass healthcare reform, I don't see why he can't publicly back the repeal of DOMA, if he really is against it.

The easy answer is that he doesn't want to. The complicated answer is that the Democrats have other priorities, and they desperately want to get away from hot-button cultural issues.

You can call it greed or cowardice or whatever, but a repeal of either DOMA and DODT would cause a hell-storm of controversy, and they just don't want to get into either. I think of the two, DODT will be the easier sell, because its a military issue, and the brass seems to be on board. I'm about 90% sure that'll happen next year.

DOMA is gonna be a long way off. Maybe once a sizable minority of states have gay marriage or if the Supreme Court invalidates a bunch of marriages or something.
posted by empath at 10:22 PM on April 15, 2010


I guess, when Obama says in press releases and signing statements and speeches that "I believe it's [DOMA] discriminatory, I think it interferes with states' rights, and we will work with Congress to overturn it" ... that doesn't count as publicly backing the repeal of DOMA?
posted by kafziel at 10:23 PM on April 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Furthermore, this may be a very good thing for gay marriage and other gay rights issues.

This is great news, but I don't know about this statement, since this is actually taking away one of the more effective arguments for legalizing gay marriage.

Although in the long run, people watching gay people care for and grieve for their loved ones in the hospital may come to see them as human beings instead of scary others.
posted by straight at 10:25 PM on April 15, 2010


Better that the root cause of this disease is eradicated, first, rather than treating symptoms.

Just so we're clear, you're saying gay people should not be allowed to visit their loved ones in the hospital so long as DOMA stands?
posted by scottreynen at 10:26 PM on April 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


This made me very happy, until I started reading comments (not here) about how this was just a ploy on Obama's part to get gay people to contribute to his campaign without repealing, or having any intention of repealing, DOMA and DADT. Then I realized I was waiting to hear about the first challenge to this directive from a religious hospital system on First Amendment grounds.

I'm still happy for the many people this will help, and I hope I and the rest of the cynical folks are wrong.
posted by immlass at 10:28 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


You need to provide evidence of his support of DOMA during any of his campaigns.

The DOJ brief, which uses very strong language to argue for DOMA, seems evidence of his "separate but equal" philosophy, one that is underscored by his previous argument for this as a "state's rights" matter during his candidacy. Maybe he's got a comprehensive plan to address the larger issues of discrimination that are the root of this, and now that HCR is dealt with this is just the start of a greater course of action. One can hope.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:29 PM on April 15, 2010


Just so we're clear, you're saying gay people should not be allowed to visit their loved ones in the hospital so long as DOMA stands?

To be clear, sir, no.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:30 PM on April 15, 2010


As has been explained the DOJ defends the laws made by congress. Obama is in favor of repealing DOMA, but it is something that congress can only do.

Also the legal brief came after he was elected. You need to provide evidence that he talked in favor of DOMA during the election, I have found no evidence for such a statement.

He supports civil unions for homosexual partners because of his faith and has said that gay marriage is something that should be decided by states.

So I'm not really sure where you're coming from. Maybe you think civil unions are offensive or something, but I think they're superior to the religious institution of marriage.
posted by Allan Gordon at 10:36 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Definitely! And it ticks me off to realize that this was achievable by a simple Executive Order. It should have been done sooner.

I don't know if you remember, because it was such a small news event, but something happened recently that made hospitals much more dependent on government funded health care. I forget the details of what all that fuss was about though.
posted by thesmophoron at 10:37 PM on April 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


We've been over why that brief had to make every credible argument to defend DOMA, regardless of whether Obama was actively lobbying for repeal. Even if Obama went on national television and said the plaintiffs should win, the DoJ attorneys are still under an ethical obligation to defend against the suit to the best of their abilities.

You said "it is a law he has expressed support of in the past, while running as a candidate." So let's hear campaign.
posted by kafziel at 10:40 PM on April 15, 2010


Also the legal brief came after he was elected

I don't think he had any official Presidential powers until he was elected, so the fact that the legal brief came out when it did seems more damning than his opposition to same-sex marriage before getting elected.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:43 PM on April 15, 2010


No you see you made an argument that he supported DOMA during the election and then you used the DOJ brief defending DOMA that occurred after he was elected as your evidence of your previous statement. Hahahah why am I even bothering, obviously you don't care that the DOJ has to defend any law passed by congress no matter how untasteful so you'll keep repeating yourself over and over.
posted by Allan Gordon at 10:46 PM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


The DOJ brief, which uses very strong language to argue for DOMA, seems evidence of his "separate but equal" philosophy, one that is underscored by his previous argument for this as a "state's rights" matter during his candidacy.

Can you give me an example of DOJ lawyers ever declining to defend a bill in court, under any administration on any issue?
posted by empath at 10:46 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyway, I'm wary of possible backlash setting back attempts to right past wrongs, but I hope this works out for the best.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:53 PM on April 15, 2010


The fact is that as a matter of principle, the president doesn't get involved in DOJ business, and when a President DOES get involved, its a scandal. How would you feel if Obama ordered the DOJ not to defend some banking regulation reform because Goldman Sachs donated so much money to his campaign? You'd be up in arms, and rightfully so.

It's the job of the DOJ to defend federal laws in court. It's the job of a lawyer to win cases, making the best argument possible. Obama has absolutely nothing to do with it, and shouldn't.
posted by empath at 10:54 PM on April 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


I really can't imagine how Janice Langbehn felt or feels, but I know that sometime in the near future this will be tremendously important for someone. Good for you, America, as the world now is a slightly more compassionate place.
posted by Harald74 at 11:32 PM on April 15, 2010


Congratulations, America - you've now caught up with the New South Wales of 1977.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:10 AM on April 16, 2010 [12 favorites]


Actually, maybe not quite - a directive to "issue appropriate rulemaking" is probably not challengeable in court - unlike formalised legislation outlawing discrimination on the grounds of homosexuality (or perceived homosexuality).
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:24 AM on April 16, 2010


This is awesome.
posted by yeloson at 12:31 AM on April 16, 2010


However since the way you argue is similar to a troll it doesn't really matter if you think you're trolling or not since it yields the same reaction.

Reading this made my face hurt itself.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:51 AM on April 16, 2010


Better that the root cause of this disease is eradicated, first, rather than treating symptoms.

Just so we're clear, you're saying gay people should not be allowed to visit their loved ones in the hospital so long as DOMA stands?
posted by scottreynen at 6:26 AM

That certainly looks like a deliberate misreading. If it isn't, saying that curing cancer is better than chemotherapy is no equivalent to damning chemotherapy. It's just pointing out that it isn't a cure for cancer.



On an entirely separate note, arguing that backing civil partnerships or unions is somehow preferable to allowing gay marriage (for whatever reason, I recognise legitimate grievances with marriage as a legal institution, and would gladly see it abolished for a system of legal partnership) is still supporting a discriminatory system where your rights are determined (in part) by your sexuality. Until marriage is abolished altogether, it ought to be a right for everyone, gay, straight, or whatever.
posted by Dysk at 1:07 AM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Maybe you think civil unions are offensive or something, but I think they're superior to the religious institution of marriage.

Given that you're sufficiently ignorant of the history of marriage as to have bought in to the idea it's a religious institiution, I guess it's not too surprising that you're silly enough to see civil unions as anything other than a second-class carriage.
posted by rodgerd at 1:31 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're right I don't know the complete history of marriage, but it's practiced as a religious institution in the United States. It could be I don't really find civil unions offensive because my parents just got a marriage license for the rights it gave them. But I think it would be foolish to say that we aren't raised in a society that regards marriage as a religious custom, and I find the way it's tied to the government to be flawed. The best solution would be to make civil unions the norm like how Brother Dysk has said.

Also you do know that marriage customs change from culture and place right. As an Anthropology student I've learned that it's important to look at each specific culture to see how marriage is handled in their society. Maybe you're just too tied to the general idea and you're not able to see how it's really a very broad definition.
posted by Allan Gordon at 1:43 AM on April 16, 2010


The "civil unions for everyone" argument bewilders me. I mean, yeah, I get what you're saying, but does anyone putting this forward think there is any chance of it getting any sort of traction in the United States? Do you think convincing the people who think letting two men or two women pledge their love officially is going to destroy the institution of marriage when you tell them that we're just going to get rid of the concept of marriage entirely? They will see that as gutting a valuable social institution just so you don't have to get icky religion germs on your equality. And they will have a point.

As it stands it's just a pointless distraction from the actually achievable goal of making sure people are treated equally in this country regardless of who they fall in love with.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 1:52 AM on April 16, 2010


You'll be convincing the people. My kingdom for an edit!
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 1:55 AM on April 16, 2010


Blazecock Pileon wrote: "Sorry, Obama, but it doesn't mean a damn thing unless DOMA — the law you and your Department of Justice support — gets repealed. This could easily be challenged and overturned in federal court."

Does this executive order even once invoke the word "marriage," or "spouse?" If not, please explain the basis for your contention.
posted by wierdo at 1:58 AM on April 16, 2010


In the past, all marriages were gay.
posted by bwg at 2:00 AM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thing is, if you allowed only civil unions, that'd effectively be marriage by another name. People can and will do all sorts of odd ceremonies (religious, psuedo-religious, or not) at the initiation of a civil union. So long as there's only one type or category of civil union (legally speaking - obviously you can subdivide arbitrarily) then it really doesn't matter whether the state or legislature calls it marriage. It'd be marriage, in that it serves that purpose for society and the individual.

In other words, abolishing marriage is largely the same thing as extending it and abolishing sub-marriages such as civil unions. A rose by any other name, &c.
posted by Dysk at 2:09 AM on April 16, 2010


Threads like this are difficult for me as a gay man, because I am torn between the positive emotions elicited by the links and the frustration caused by the wrong-headedness of so many straight people arguing over an issue that it is clear has never actually affected some of them.

I am told constantly that my relationship with my partner is invalid and a detriment to other, more worthy relationships. I have a father who can't fully mask his distaste when I hold hands with the man I love. People protest and shout at me at major events. And on top of all this, you're telling me that 1) I shouldn't be happy about the human rights I'm suddenly recognized as having and 2) I should confirm the fears of every bigot by demanding that the government no longer issue them marriages?

No. No no no no no. I'm sorry for those of you who are outraged by incremental progress. It reeks of privilege to me. This change in policy represents a significant improvement in my life, and the lives of many United States residents, gay and straight. I think many of you would approach this topic quite differently if you had some idea of what it feels like to have your rights denied to you.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 2:54 AM on April 16, 2010 [28 favorites]


I'm sorry for those of you who are outraged by incremental progress.

I'm gay and in a registered partnership that is periodically at risk of being invalidated. So the stakes are higher for my partner and I than, I suspect, for most in this thread, as well. I hope that helps explain why I am concerned about the undesired effects from this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:59 AM on April 16, 2010


I understand BP's reservations but my gut instinct -- from across the pond and with very little familiarity with, well, anything -- is that this is a great move for one reason: 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.

Trans people have been dumped out of a lot of protections aimed at LGB people, and their rights have been used as bargaining chips by LGB groups, so it's pretty refreshing to see that language in there. But then, trans activists in general aren't too invested in repealing DOMA and other marriage-related stuff anyway; matters of survival, privacy and employment tend to be higher on the list.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:15 AM on April 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


I understand your reservations Blazecock, but I don't think there's much to worry about with respect to this particular memo. There's not much of a legal argument to hang the anti-gay hat on here, and the useful appeal to emotion are on the side of right and justice this time. "Explain to me why I should not be allowed to have the person I love by my side in my time of greatest need?" is not a question anyone relishes answering, and that's the question anyone who opposes this memo has to answer.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 3:17 AM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Incremental progress is most assuredly progress, but there is a risk (generally, I'm less convinced by this specific case) of it being mere appeasement heading for a dead end. These are real concerns, I'm just far from convinced that this particular instance represents any such risk - it is only tangentially related to the issue of marriage (and really, the absurdity of this type of situation is unlikely to convince anyone to change their mind on the issue), and I can't see any other causes that this supposedly shoots in the foot. In a way, it isn't much progress at all, but if I were in a situation relevant to this change in law, it'd mean the fucking world to me.

This is important. And this was a good thing.
posted by Dysk at 3:29 AM on April 16, 2010


I hadnt realised gay people were barred from visiting their partners in hospital - thats very, very strange. Especially considering most hospitals would collapse without gay people working in them. Anyway, it's changed, carry on.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:07 AM on April 16, 2010


I hadnt realised gay people were barred from visiting their partners in hospital - thats very, very strange. Especially considering most hospitals would collapse without gay people working in them.

I think it's relatively rare, but it's still happened more times than is acceptable (read: more than none). That's the point of this memo, to make sure everyone's on exactly the same page about how not-cool that shit is anymore.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 4:14 AM on April 16, 2010


Like the memo says, this is also good for people (regardless of their orientation) who are unmarried and don't have children. A very dear friend of mine is single. She is childless and everyone in her immediate (and non immediate too really) family has already passed away. It has always scared me that if she were to be in an accident or have a medical emergency her "chosen family" which is what she calls her circle of best friends could be kept away and she might have to be alone. I'm tearing up just thinking about it.
posted by pointystick at 4:32 AM on April 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Intellectually, I realize that a ton of other stuff Obama's accomplished is probably more important than this one executive order, but emotionally, this makes me happier than anything else he's done in fifteen months.
posted by shiu mai baby at 5:19 AM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


A few weeks ago my partner was in a car crash severe enough that it required an ambulance ride to the trauma center of our big city hospital. I was nearby when the accident happened but I couldn't go straight to the hospital to be with him. I had to first go home and pick up a big stack of legal documents that showed I had the right to be with him and, if required, make decisions about his medical care. So he got to spend an extra hour alone, in pain, and confused from a concussion. I hope you'll forgive me if I think this is a big deal and long overdue.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:05 AM on April 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


That certainly looks like a deliberate misreading. If it isn't, saying that curing cancer is better than chemotherapy is no equivalent to damning chemotherapy. It's just pointing out that it isn't a cure for cancer.

With that phrasing, sure, but if a doctor said to you "the cancer should be cured first, rather than applying chemotherapy," wouldn't you interpret that as opposition to chemotherapy? In any case, it was an honest question.

The whole idea of prioritizing specific elements of gay rights relative to each other puts the same bad taste in my mouth as the idea of prioritizing gay rights in general relative to other political goals. This "wait" has almost always meant "never."
posted by scottreynen at 6:08 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm way late to the game on this discussion, but I had a similiar set of mixed feelings about this announcement, based on my last twenty years of observing Democrats and their strange relationship to civil rights (and they are civil rights, not "gay" rights, or "LBGTQXYZ" rights, or what ever they get billed as being).

I think it's wonderful that the hateful, malignant bullshit that hospitals have practiced is being banned. I have a hard time imagining that, were I to be kept away from the person I love in their last hours, my grieving process would not involve an aluminum baseball bat and a late night parking lot meeting with the administrator who'd enforced that separation. This subject brings out feelings of rage in me that are fired by the reality that I'm told who I can or should marry, how I can manage my finances, how much I'm paid (spousal benefits are pay), and in that last, desperate moment, that some pinched, soulless bureaucrat can lock me out because we live in a country ruled by religious imbeciles and gutless "progressives" who live in fear of offending religious imbeciles.

Things needed to change. They needed to change 15 months ago, but hey, presidents are busy, you know?

Maybe this will be an incremental change.

I'm not so sure. Frankly, I heard this from all my DNC-apologist friends throughout the Clinton years, when I was told time and time again to be patient, that our buddy Bill was working his way towards making change for us, and building political capital for us, and was nudge-nudging and wink-winking his way to equality...and then he enthusiastically signed the Defense of Marriage Act. Worse, the majority of Democrats voted for DOMA (My "liberal" senators in Maryland? Both voted for DOMA.). I left the party in '96 and haven't looked back. Hell, at least I know where a Republican stands. The Dems talk a good game, but the ones that mean it are the ones who act independently, not the ones who believe that it's okay to dole out little doses of noblesse oblige to keep our idiotic gay voting block waving their flags.

I hear a lot about incremental change, but the incremental change is societal, not political. Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell didn't make things incrementally better for homos in the military--it made them worse, as it turned out. This change is great, but is it going to chip the teeth out of the overall case for equal marriage rights? A little bit here, a little bit there, but we'll never cross that Rubicon because it'll be easier for the mediocrats to say, "we gave them visitation, benefits, etcetera? What more do those people want?" I'm sick of waiting, you know? I've heard from the DNC that they're on our side for almost twenty years, and politically, we've gone backwards. Reagan couldn't have dreamed of pulling off some of the hurtful crap that Clinton signed off on.

And yet, what's to be done? I think it's great that we've gotten this little concession doled out to us after fifteen months. I think it's great that finally, people like me aren't going to be dying inside in some wretched fucking public waiting room while the most important thing in the whole goddamn world would be a chance to hold a hand and say "baby, don't leave me," to a mind that might just hear that plea and feel strong enough to respond. If one person is spared that hopeless, unforgivable misery, this will be a good thing.

Still, is this a concession, an appeal for a vote, or is it a step towards something lasting and real at last?

I can't say. I feel too beaten down and cynical after being used as a voting tool by the Democrats to have a really objective answer to it, and I understand so well why Blazecock Pileon would have a response that's not as gleeful and forgiving as the party line folks. Things are never so simple as they are when we buy into all the happy slogans and sunny PR.

Time will tell.
posted by sonascope at 6:15 AM on April 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


As a lesbian in a longterm relationship (coming up on our 9 year anniversary of our handfasting/committment ceremony -- 13 years together) this really really pleases me. Incremental steps that accept us as deserving of human rights and establishing things that others take for granted as rights, not just privileges are important.

I too wish it went even just a bit further. Dr.s can choose whom to accept as patients. But once they do -- they have an obligation to communcate and treat as they would any other patient. If they discover they cannot do so, they should be obligated to find another Dr. for the patient.

I am svery fortunate that my current state of MD has non discrimination laws and a more accepting social environment. My parnter was permitted to spend 3 days/nights with me after major surgery. This made the experience much easier for me and the hospital staff. I was on heavy pain meds and am severely hard of hearing, so I was having a lot of trouble communicating and understanding other people. My partner was able to use sign supported speech to clarifiy. I am accepted as a supporting partner that is expected (?) to go back to the consult rooms with my partner. That is not to say there are no vocal opposers who wish we would jost go away or at least back into the closet. Unfortunately, they will always be around; just as there are racists and sexists.

It is a big contrast to what I experienced in Central VA. I was really sick with what turned out to be 3 ulcers in my stomach and intestines. I had a Gi specialist who did a procdure under sedation. There were complications and they were unable to finsh the test. He refused to talk to that person. I couldn't really remember things well thanks to the sedation. We had to follow the discharge paper and call to ask his PA what was up. Needless to say, I wound up dropping him and asking my primary care for another referral My parnter was not able to help me with my Short Term Disability process at my state job. My partner was having serious medical issues of her own. We continually ran into the "who are you and why do you want to come back to the exam room" situation.

Medical discrimination is alive and well. :( Reading comments on some of these types of articles generally makes me feel sick so I avoid them.

I am sooooo grateful to MeFi. Generally, even when there are strong disagreements or people being stubbornly wrongheaded -- people do not discount others' experiences and there are rarely vile comments (thanks moderators and MeFites).

Anyway-- I undersand those feeling that this doesn't go far enough or that one of our arguments (and stories to tell) for gay marriaage is gone. However, people should not wait for this basic right until we manage to secure better rights. I applaud Obama's move during this insane time when tea partiers et. al are looking for any reason to villify him. I must say that I didn't reallize the political astuteness of his timing until I read Saydor's (sorry if I spelled that wrong) comment above.
posted by Librarygeek at 6:27 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I made the mistake of reading the comments on the WaPo article about this (might have to register/sign in to read them), and from my skimming, it seems that most people who are objecting are objecting because:

However, this decree from his majesty is unnecessary since all one person has to do is designate their partner Power of Attornery or HC and most normal workers at a hospital would allow access.

and

You have it reversed. Its the local people, not the federal government, who made decisons about who was allowed to visit patients or make medical decisons.

This intercession in favor of 'same sex mates' is the federales assuming the power to dictate to the local people in this area.
So it's a expansion of federal powers, when the feds have the power to allow it (or say anything at all in the matter).


and

What I am damn tired of is this "Messiah" mandating (dictating)anything and everything he wishes to "legislate" on his own initative with no discussion with the legislative branch.

I can't skim anymore because the steam coming out of my ears has fogged up my screen, but you get the idea.
posted by rtha at 6:41 AM on April 16, 2010


empath Why do you think a repeal of DADT is on the way?

There are 41 Republican Senators. They usually vote as a bloc, and opposing gay rights is one of the cornerstones of the Republican platform. Looking at the Senate I don't see any possible way that the Republicans will permit any gay friendly legislation to move forward, opposing gay rights is one of their core reasons for existing after all.

For that matter its not even all that likely that the Democratic caucus can get all 59 of its members to vote for a repeal of DADT, much less pull off that one critical Republican vote.

The time to push for a DADT or DOMA repeal was when there were 60 members of the Democratic caucus and there was, therefore, at least the very faint chance of getting them to vote together. That time has passed. I think we have to realistically recognize that the window for getting anything progressive done has closed. Obama may have had very good reasons for what, to me, looked like a bad case of foot dragging on progressive issues, I'm doubtful on that point but really its irrelevant whether he had good reasons or not, the time has passed.

Not that we shouldn't try, of course, but I think that we have to admit that the odds of success on any bit of progressive legislation are now somewhat lower than winning the lottery.
posted by sotonohito at 6:58 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I performed a wedding Sunday for a lesbian couple who moved to DC for the summer specifically so that they could get married and deliver their baby here. One partner was 38.5 weeks pregnant, and they wanted to be sure the other partner had full parental and spousal rights before labor started--a real shot-gun wedding, in the garden behind the Smithsonian Castle. It was beautiful.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:12 AM on April 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


This as an issue that's tangential to getting rid of DOMA, not an insufficient replacement. It's not just a sop for gay citizens - it also means that if I were hit by a bus, me and my (straight, unmarried, committed) partner could make decisions together, in each others' company. Trans folks could be treated the way they want to be treated, not the way close family says they want. Someone of a different religion than their family could have an advocate on his or her side side. Perhaps it means that if a patient wants a partner with serious physical disabilities to be in a cramped room, the hospital will have to provide accommodation rather than saying "sorry, the logistics on that don't work." And more.

The point is, the "immediate family" rule is too limiting and excludes all those for whom "immediate family" may not be the people who know them best or care the most about them. Hospitals that treat patients on government health insurance (read: most of them) won't be able to do that any more. It will take a while to put these rules into place, but hospitals won't be able to discriminate visitors or those able to make medical decisions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability any more.

That's a good thing.
posted by peachfuzz at 7:24 AM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


*sigh* First of all, about the only thing that legal marriage has to do with religious marriage is that most states give you the option of having a religious officiant serve as a notary public on your license. Otherwise the institutions are largely parallel and separate, and there are good reasons for this given that it wasn't until the 20th century that it became common for religious denominations to recognize the sacrament of marriage performed outside of their walls. (And to some families, whether a wedding is performed in the right church with the right kind of minister is still a big deal.)

The "civil unions instead of marriage" argument ignores two big problems. First of all, the legal term marriage is the term of art used in hundreds of statutes and legal decisions that make up family and inheritance law in the United States. At some point you need to say that your construct of civil unions is legally equivalent to what has historically been called marriage. Which directly leads to the second problem.

The argument that this issue is about protecting a traditional religious and linguistic definition of a word is highly disingenuous. The battle over gay marriage began with domestic partnerships and powers of attorney in the early 1990s. When judges and institutions started giving same-sex relationships piecemeal rights and recognition, the Right quickly mobilized around the theory that piecemeal rights undermine heterosexual marriage and passed "defense of marriage" laws blocking not only marriage, but piecemeal rights in jurisdictions where marriage equality wasn't even on the table. As we saw in Washington, it's not about the word at all, it's about the rights.

Expanding the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex partnerships will do nothing in regards to the sacraments of marriage, which are still protected by the First Amendment. Congregations have no obligation to recognized mixed-faith or mixed-race marriage now. The legal definition isn't going to force anyone to invite Omar and Bob to Easter dinner.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:48 AM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sotonohito,

As annoying as it was to have Scott Brown elected, I seriously doubt whether he would vote with his Rebublican bloc on DOMA or DODT. Doing so would be politically dangerous, considering that his MA constituents-even the conservative ones- consider gay marriage a settled issue. I'd honestly be more worried about losing a couple of the blue dog democrats in a vote.

All this is just to say that DOMA and DODT are a difficult issue, and while political leanings play a role, regional attitudes do as well.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 7:49 AM on April 16, 2010


HabeasCorpus We'll see. Personally I doubt it. The Republicans have excellent party discipline, in large part because they have party seniority rules that allow them to severely punish any Republican who steps out of line. Maybe Brown will be the one to break the Republican bloc, I'm not optimistic though.
posted by sotonohito at 8:15 AM on April 16, 2010


What peachfuzz said. Sure, it's not the end goal, but it's a step, and I don't see a downside here. I'm straight, and it means I'll definitely be able to visit my partner, to whom I'm not married, if she ever ends up in the hospital (and vice-versa). It means she and I, a gay or lesbian couple, and a straight married couple are on the same legal footing with regard to hospital visitation rights, and that's a good thing.
posted by Alterscape at 9:25 AM on April 16, 2010


The time to push for a DADT or DOMA repeal was when there were 60 members of the Democratic caucus and there was, therefore, at least the very faint chance of getting them to vote together.

Joe Lieberman was #60. Considering his conservative leanings and the way he jerked the Democrats around on health care, I think it's extremely unlikely he would've been a reliable vote.

First of all, the legal term marriage is the term of art used in hundreds of statutes and legal decisions that make up family and inheritance law in the United States.

Exactly. Either we change the word "marriage" to "civil union" in every law at every level, or we give everyone the same rights.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:30 AM on April 16, 2010


empath: Why do you think a repeal of DADT is on the way?

Because A) it's not a popular policy and B) the military doesn't want it. I think they'll have hearings and the military brass will overwhelmingly testify in favor of repeal and it'll end up being repealed.
posted by empath at 9:41 AM on April 16, 2010


As far as ending marriage and giving everyone civil unions, I can't think of a plan more guaranteed to give the Republicans "see, the Democrats and faggots hate marriage and want to take yours away!" ammo. Regardless of the theoretical merit of the proposal, it is a non-starter. Now that's out of the way, how about we let gay people get married?

empath What I was really asking, I now realize, is: what Republican do you see defecting from the bloc, violating the Republican party platform, accepting his immediate demotion to "faggot loving traitor", and, essentially, ending his political career in order to be the 60th vote to break the Republican filibuster?

kirkaracha Which is why I said "faint chance". I have my doubts that the Democratic caucus can get all 59 (or, back then 60) members to vote to break the Republican filibuster. I think, given that getting rid of DADT now requires a minimum of one Republican vote, as well as every single member of the Democratic caucus, the odds are somewhat worse than winning the lottery. We should try, of course, but I think we'll lose.
posted by sotonohito at 10:52 AM on April 16, 2010


empath What I was really asking, I now realize, is: what Republican do you see defecting from the bloc, violating the Republican party platform, accepting his immediate demotion to "faggot loving traitor", and, essentially, ending his political career in order to be the 60th vote to break the Republican filibuster.

I think probably a bunch of them. We'll see.
posted by empath at 11:19 AM on April 16, 2010


I hadnt realised gay people were barred from visiting their partners in hospital - thats very, very strange.
Testimony received prior to and since this Commission's interim report confirms that many civil union couples receive unequal treatment in health care, particularly during medical crises. As noted in this report’s summary, Gina Pastino testified before the Commission on October 15, 2008 about difficulties that arose when she was admitted for emergency medical treatment in the summer of 2008. At an earlier Commission hearing, Ms. Pastino testified about similar challenges she and her civil union partner experienced when faced with having to explain their family relationship while dealing with medical emergencies. As examples, Ms. Pastino described an incident when their son developed a dangerously high fever that would not respond to medication, and another when her partner needed emergency medical treatment. She echoed the sentiments of other witnesses, noting that she and her civil union partner “also had to take the time before we left to go to the emergency room to make sure we had our healthcare power-of-attorney, our power-of-attorney, all the necessary
documents.”
from the Final Report of the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission, December 2008 [pdf link]
posted by hippybear at 2:39 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cause vs symptoms

Something to keep in mind is that, even just for same-sex couples, the memorandum is treating more than just the symptoms. (Unless you consider the cause/disease to be that people are bigoted, rather than that DOMA still stands).

DOMA-repeal isn't sufficient to guarantee the rights that same-sex partners gain via the memorandum. Even if DOMA went away, crazy backward states wouldn't have to allow unmarried same-sex partners to visit each other in the hospital. (Though they would presumably have to allow visitation for spouses from any state, like they already do. And same-sex married spouses from other states would still be considered spouses regardless of where in the US they were, because their marriages would be federally recognized.)

marriage vs. civil unions

Aside from equal rights arguments, an important reason why marriage is important and domestic partnerships or civil unions aren't good enough is because the word marriage is in many rules, laws, statutes, and what have you. Marriage simply affords rights that civil unionization does not. Would the terminology be changed wherever it appears? Could it even be changed? I don't think anyone can go changing the text of existing laws. Just saying.

Also, marriage already is civil marriage. Nobody has to do anything religious in the process of getting married.
posted by sentient at 3:28 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The time to push for a DADT or DOMA repeal was when there were 60 members of the Democratic caucus ....

.....Joe Lieberman was #60. Considering his conservative leanings and the way he jerked the Democrats around on health care, I think it's extremely unlikely he would've been a reliable vote.



Much as I can't fucking bear Holy Joe, that is uninformed. Lieberman introduced the DADT repeal bill. He's been the Obama administration's point man on the issue.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:31 PM on April 16, 2010


Can I just ask what's up with DODT? I've seen it several times in this thread - once or twice, okay typo. But consistently enough that wikipedia redirects it to the page for Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT)? Unless the O is Osk, I have no fucking clue what it's meant to stand for...
posted by Dysk at 4:44 PM on April 16, 2010


Very belated correction: I wrote earlier that a directive to "issue appropriate rulemaking" is probably not challengeable in court, by which I actually meant "enforceable". The meaning got lost in the editing process.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:56 PM on April 16, 2010


a directive to "issue appropriate rulemaking" is probably not challengeable enforceable in court

my administrative law is a little fuzzy, but because this is an executive agency and he's, you know, the president, i'm pretty sure he has the power to direct them to do exactly that.

the bigger question is whether the scope of the powers granted in the authorizing statute is broad enough to cover that kind of a rule. executive agencies only get rulemaking power if congress grants it to them. however, when agency action is challenged in the federal courts, the courts usually grant pretty broad deference to the agency's interpretation of the statute. so if the authorizing statute fairly plausibly allows them to do this, it should stand.

im also feel like an attempted future agency decision reversing such a rule wouldn't withstand the arbitrary and capricious test, but like i said, administrative law isn't my strong point
posted by thesmophoron at 12:00 AM on April 17, 2010


What I was getting at more was whether or not Joe Public has standing - to take an organisation to court if they continue to apply discriminatory policies?
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:57 AM on April 17, 2010


Ubu: Whatever shortcomings of knowledge I have in administrative are nothing compared to how ignorant I am of how HHS works, but assuming its organic statute provides for it, there are probably administrative law courts where you can file complaints. AL tribunals aren't Article III courts, so I'm not sure traditional standing analysis would apply. Even if this were a federal law enforceable in federal courts, though, I'm pretty sure that Joe Public would have standing.
posted by thesmophoron at 10:34 PM on April 17, 2010


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