WASHINGTON — President Obama on Thursday ordered his health secretary to issue new rules aimed at granting hospital visiting rights to same-sex partners.
The White House announced the rule changes, which will also make it easier for gay men and lesbians to make medical decisions on behalf of their partners, in a memorandum released Thursday night. In it, the president said the new rules would affect any hospital that participates in Medicare or Medicaid, the government programs to cover the elderly and the poor.
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“Every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindness and caring of a loved one at their sides,” Mr. Obama said in the memorandum, adding that the rules could also help widows and widowers who rely on friends and members of religious orders who care for one another. But he says gay men and lesbians are “uniquely affected” because they are often barred from visiting partners with whom they have spent decades.
Richard Socarides, who advised President Bill Clinton on gay rights issues, said that while the memorandum on its own did not grant any new rights, it did “draw attention to the very real and tragic situations many gays and lesbians face when a partner is hospitalized.”