Seriously, Pay Little Heed To The Hospital Visitation Memo

Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Share on Reddit0Share on Tumblr0Email this to someone

I wrote last night, about 2 AM, that I don’t think we should get excited in the least bit for President Obama’s memo about hospital visitation rights. A couple folks have challenged me on that (which I welcome), but I want to reiterate my concern again.

We should not give President Obama any credit or good graces for this memo.

If, as it seems to read, it still requires that partners have powers of attorney, then nothing has changed. The real inequity comes from what is required for couples to obtain those rights, not just have them. Rights like visitation, medical decisions, and inheritance are easily taken for granted by opposite-sex couples, because they all come default with a marriage license. Same-sex couples have to pay exorbitant legal fees to have each one drawn up individually. So the inequality is only partly about what happens at the hospital and is much more about the burden on couples simply to obtain those rights.

At best, this is simply a “wagging of the finger” at hospitals who don’t already respect powers of attorney that have been obtained. It’s not saying do anything new, it’s just saying do what you’re already supposed to be doing.

As Joe Sudbay points out today, this is also just a small consolation prize for all of the LGBT-specific provisions that were stripped out of the health care package.

Further, this didn’t require expending any political capital on the President’s part. As Richard Socarides points out, this is “the kind of thing the gay community was hoping Obama would do right after he was inaugurated.” I mean, seriously, he took 15 months to draft a two-page memo addressing one little right that has no legal force behind it… and we’re celebrating?

This is just a little carrot. It’s just a little trick up the President’s sleeve that he could have done a long time ago that he saved for a rainy day.

We simply cannot fall for it. That’s exactly what he hopes we’ll do.

My hope is that we rail on him for doing so little, for offering us this trifle of a gesture while so many real inequalities persist. We need to step up the pressure. We need to stop applauding inaction.

Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Share on Reddit0Share on Tumblr0Email this to someone
Back to Top | Scroll down for Comments!

There are 3 Comments to "Seriously, Pay Little Heed To The Hospital Visitation Memo"

  • Kris says:

    I appreciate the hardline and I think it’s good to keep asking questions.  But you’re being too critical on this one.
    You know, as an educated person, that in order for social change to occur, we need to start with small bites.  Yes…there is the mindset that we shouldn’t settle for small bites and that we should insist on equality.  But that’s just not going to work.  Not in an institution as large as federal government.
    As someone who spent time in a hospital with a same-sex partner, I can say that it was helpful that we drew up the power-of-attorney stuff.  It meant that in a crisis, I had documentation that said I could medical decisions.  And it meant that we had had those conversations in advance so I knew what she would have wanted.
    What Obama suggested wasn’t power-of-attorney.  It was simple visitation.  In some places, right now, if I were to be traveling with a partner and she were to be hit by a truck, I might not be able to even be in the room, much less make decisions regarding her help.  And as a non-married person, that should be exactly what my role is.
    Obama did the right thing.  He told hospitals to stop discriminating in the most basic of ways.  To go above and beyond that would have been wrong. That’s an individual and couple-based decision.

  • Buffy says:

    So far Obama hasn’t given us anything and I expect to receive more of the same.   Sure, he spews lots of pretty sounding words but he consistently fails to deliver.   (The hate-crimes bill doesn’t count because that was in the works for a decade before Obama became president.)    This is just another little crumb he’s prattling about in an attempt to seem like he is our “fierce advocate” when he’s anything but.    I’m still eternally glad I didn’t vote for him.

  • ZackFord says:

    I hear what you’re saying, Kris, but I still think that as a gesture, it was generally fluff. It’s great that he said hospitals shouldn’t discriminate—they shouldn’t—but a memo with no force of law doesn’t seem like much to celebrate. I might be less critical if it didn’t just happen to pop up out of nowhere when even HRC and Barney Frank, Obama’s typical apologists, have been giving him heat over DADT.

    I just can’t see this as anything but appeasement.

Write a Comment