WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Obama administration has taken a significant step forward in ensuring same-sex couples are no longer discriminated against in hospital settings. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced its final rule on ending such discrimination in hospital visitation policies across the country. The new rule, which takes effect in January 2011, directs any hospital receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds to have written visitation policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In addition, the hospitals must inform each patient of his or her right to receive visitors designated by the patient, "including, but not limited to, a spouse, a domestic partner (including a same-sex domestic partner), another family member or a friend." The new rule will cover nearly 6,200 hospitals with more than 35 million patient admissions each year.
“Of all the things same-sex couples have to worry about, of all the discrimination and pressures we face, not being able to see our partner or spouse shouldn’t be one of them. Today’s announcement honors our relationships, our love and our basic humanity. An end to this discrimination can't come soon enough. We thank the administration for taking this critical stride forward and will continue to work with Health and Human Services as it issues future guidelines to ensure full and clear implementation of this rule," said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.