Revisiting gay rights

President Obama is working to allow same-sex partner visits at hospitals.

Late last week, President Barack Obama began the process of forcing hospitals that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid dollars âÄî which is nearly all of them âÄî to allow same-sex partners visitation rights. As it now stands, hospitals in many states are free to discriminate against gay couples, even when one partner has procured the power of attorney. Doctors stand to benefit because patientsâÄô partners can often offer unique medical information, but beyond the medical argument is a stronger moral one. Federal law must not allow hospitals to deny human beings the comfort of their loved ones during lifeâÄôs gravest episodes, or worse, deny them the experience of giving terminal loved ones a firsthand goodbye. Minnesota state law already has equivalent protections in place but offers no guarantees for travelers. Indeed, ObamaâÄôs action was reportedly inspired by the tale of Lisa Pond of Washington State, who collapsed from a brain aneurism while on vacation in Florida with her family. At the hospital, she was denied visits from her partner of 18 years and their three children, despite their having the necessary documentation. This is the second major step forward for gay rights under Obama, who has been cautious at best in following up on campaign promises for gay rights. The General Accounting Office estimates federal law enshrines 1,138 distinct rights and responsibilities for married couples, ranging from domestic violence protection and joint tax filings to court privileges. It is time for bolder rhetoric and action in defense of gay rights. Moving forward, Obama and Congress should continue to push for repeal of the âÄúDonâÄôt Ask/DonâÄôt TellâÄù military policy, the enactment of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and, ultimately, overturn of the Defense of Marriage Act.