by Rex Wockner -
SGN Contributing Writer
HHS mandates same-sex-partner hospital visitation
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced its final rule November 17 on ending discrimination against same-sex couples in hospital visitation policies.
The rule, which takes effect in January, directs any hospital receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds - nearly all hospitals - to have written visitation policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In addition, the hospitals must inform patients of their right to receive visitors of their choosing, 'including, but not limited to, a spouse, a domestic partner (including a same-sex domestic partner), another family member or a friend.'
The rule will cover about 6,200 hospitals with more than 35 million patient admissions per 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,' said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. 'Today's announcement honors our relationships, our love and our basic humanity.'
DADT protesters arrested at White House
Thirteen supporters of direct-action group GetEQUAL were arrested at the White House fence November 15 after handcuffing themselves to it and supergluing their handcuff locks.
They demanded that the Senate join the House in authorizing repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell military ban on noncloseted GLBs before the Senate adjourns this year.
Arrested were Dan Choi, Autumn Sandeen, Evelyn Thomas, Mara Boyd, Geoff Farrow, Robin McGehee, Miriam Ben-Shalom, Justin Elzie, Ian Finkenbinder, Robert Smith, Dan Fotou, Scott Wooledge, and Michael Bedwell.
'Included in the 13 arrested are veterans and advocates spanning three generations of brave and courageous Americans who sacrificed their careers and lives to see the day this discriminatory ban on openly Gay and Lesbian service in the military finally goes into the history books,' said GetEQUAL Director Robin McGehee. 'Today, we have sent a loud and clear message to the U.S. Senate and President [Barack] Obama that we expect them to make good on their promises to end this inhumane law this year, during the lame-duck session of Congress.'
DADT was struck down as unconstitutional by a federal District Court earlier this year and, for eight days, an injunction prohibited the military from kicking out open Gays or barring them from enlisting. In the end, the Obama administration appealed the injunction all the way to the Supreme Court, which refused to overturn a stay of it issued by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That reinstated the policy for the duration of the appeals of the District Court ruling.
Obama has said he wants Congress, not courts, to end the ban. And Justice Department lawyers argued in court filings that the ban must not be lifted abruptly by a judge because that would harm military operations.
The House of Representatives voted earlier this year to authorize the armed forces to end DADT, but the Senate failed to follow suit.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has been conducting a massive survey of troops and their families, due to be released in December, to help it decide how to end DADT. Leaked reports of the findings suggest that a majority of members of the military are not troubled by openly Gay servicemembers.
But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has, for all intents and purposes, vowed to continue to block Senate authorization of DADT repeal, complaining that the massive Pentagon survey didn't ask the right questions.
'All four service chiefs are saying we need a thorough and complete study of the effects - not how to implement a repeal, but the effects on morale and battle effectiveness,' McCain told MSNBC on November 14. 'That's what I want, and once we get this [current] study, we need to have hearings and we need to examine it and we need to look at whether it's the kind of study that we wanted. It isn't, in my view, because I wanted a study to determine the effects of the repeal on battle effectiveness and morale. What this study is designed to do is to find out how the repeal could be implemented.'
The DADT repeal measure is part of the bill that funds the U.S. military in 2011. As a result, McCain's obstructionism has left the overall funding bill unpassed by the Senate as well.
Some surveys have found that nearly 80 percent of Americans are fine with letting Gays in the military come out of the closet by ending the DADT policy.
Meanwhile, two days after the protest, McGehee was invited into the White House to meet with Brian Bond, the openly Gay deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, 'and [with] someone from the domestic-policies office and the legal counsel.'
'What it proved to me was that we were in a situation where we took bold action and we applied pressure, and the president and his staff were not afraid to talk to the people that really are showing frustration,' McGehee said. 'If you apply pressure, it does not mean you're going to lose your access.'
McGehee insisted that the meeting be on-the-record, which the White House refused to agree to, so the administration representatives merely listened to what she had to say but did not offer comments of their own, McGehee said.
'[Bond] said their standard for the meeting was that they would listen and we would talk, but he would not engage further than that,' she said.
With assistance from Bill Kelley
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