Statement by NCLR Federal Policy Attorney Maya Rupert

(San Francisco, CA, January 18, 2011)—Today, a new federal hospital visitation rule goes into effect that provides significant protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people at all hospitals that receive federal funding. The rule was prompted by a memo that President Barack Obama issued on April 15, 2010, directing the Department of Health and Human Services to adopt new regulations that would require hospitals to grant equal visitation rights to all families, not just those based on marriage or biological ties. In the memo, President Obama specifically mentioned same-sex couples as an example of families that have been unfairly kept apart when one partner is hospitalized.

The rule prohibits any hospital that receives federal money from restricting or denying visitation based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It guarantees that all visitors will have equal visitation privileges, regardless of whether the visitors are legally or biologically related to the patient. This new rule means that hospital staff may not rely on a so-called “conscience clause” or their personal anti-gay beliefs to deny visitation rights to some patients and their visitors.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) submitted comments individually and with allied organizations on an earlier version of this rule, suggesting several changes that were ultimately implemented in the final rule.

Statement by NCLR Federal Policy Attorney Maya Rupert:

“We applaud the President for taking this important step to ensure that hospital staff respect and protect all families. No one should have to live in fear that they will be kept from the bedside of their loved ones if a tragedy were to occur. This new rule will help ensure that LGBTQ people are not denied this basic right.”

Read NCLR’s FAQ on the rule

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.