Committee on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues
The activities of the Committee on GLBT Issues include working for the adoption of policies and legislation to end all forms of discrimination based on homophobia, transphobia, and heterosexism in all social institutions and in the public and private sectors.
For information on the latest policy developments affecting GLBT people, please visit the Web site of our advocacy partner, Equality Texas.
Josephine Tittsworth, LMSW, Chair
Monrovia Van Hoose, LMSW
Skye Newkirk, BSW
GB Watson, LBSW
Join the GLBT Listserv. Email email@example.com to be added to the subscriber list. Once added, post to GLBT@list.naswtx.org.
83rd Legislative Session
The Committee on GLBT Issues has identified the following bills as having implications for the GLBT community:
House Bill 201 by Rep. Rafael Anchia: Supplementary birth certificate of an adopted child
The Health and Safety Code currently requires that when an adopted child has two adoptive parents, the supplementary birth certificate of the child must include one male adoptive parent (a father) and one female adoptive parent (a mother). House Bill 201 by Rep. Anchia amends the Code by removing the requirement for one adoptive parent to be male and the other female, thereby allowing same-sex adoptive parents to be listed on their child’s supplementary birth certificate.
House Bill 226 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson: Prohibition of certain insurance discrimination
The Insurance Code currently prevents insurers from refusing to insure or provide coverage to an individual based on the individual’s race, age, or disability. House Bill 226 by Rep. Thompson expands an individual’s protections from discrimination by preventing insurers from refusing to insure or provide coverage based on the individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
House Bill 238 by Reps. Mike Villareal & Marisa Márquez, House Bill 1146 by Rep. Eric Johnson, and Senate Bill 237 by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte: Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression
The Labor Code protects an employee from employer discrimination based on the employee’s race, color, disability, religion, sex, or national origin. House Bill 238 by Reps. Villareal and Márquez, House Bill 1146 by Rep. Johnson, and Senate Bill 237 by Sen. Van de Putte would amend several sections of the Labor Code to prevent employers from discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
House Joint Resolutions 77 & 78 by Reps. Rafael Anchia & Garnet Coleman and Senate Joint Resolution 29 by Sen. José Rodríguez: Repealing discriminatory marriage amendment
Reps. Anchia and Coleman filed House Joint Resolutions 77 and 78 and Sen. Rodríguez filed Senate Joint Resolution 29 to repeal a constitutional amendment added to the Bill of Rights to the Texas Constitution in 2005. The amendment denies same-gender Texans in committed relationships the freedom to marry or enter into a civil union.
House Bill 1300 by Rep. Lon Burnam: Marriage equality
The bill filed by Rep. Burnam would grant legal recognition to same-sex marriages in Texas. It would also repeal the prohibition against legal recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions, or similar relationships granted by other states.
San Francisco couple loses immigration battle
Carolyn Lochhead, Chronicle Washington Bureau
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Citing the Defense of Marriage Act, the Obama administration denied immigration benefits to a married gay couple from San Francisco and ordered the expulsion of a man who is the primary caregiver to his AIDS-afflicted spouse.
Bradford Wells, a U.S. citizen, and Anthony John Makk, a citizen of Australia, were married seven years ago in Massachusetts. They have lived together 19 years, mostly in an apartment in the Castro district. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied Makk's application to be considered for permanent residency as a spouse of an American citizen, citing the 1996 law that denies all federal benefits to same-sex couples.
The decision was issued July 26. Immigration Equality, a gay-rights group that is working with the couple, received the notice Friday and made it public Monday. Makk was ordered to depart the United States by Aug. 25. Makk is the sole caregiver for Wells, who has severe health problems.
"I'm married just like any other married person in this country," Wells said. "At this point, the government can come in and take my husband and deport him. It's infuriating. It's upsetting. I have no power, no right to keep my husband in this country. I love this country, I live here, I pay taxes and I have no right to share my home with the person I married."
Wells pleaded with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and President Obama to intervene.
"Anyone can identify with the horror of having the government come in and destroy your family when you've done nothing wrong, and you've done everything right, followed every law," Wells said.
The agency's decision cited the Defense of Marriage Act as the reason for the denial of an I-130 visa, or spousal petition that could allow Makk to apply for permanent U.S. residency. "The claimed relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary is not a petitionable relationship," the decision said. "For a relationship to qualify as a marriage for purposes of federal law, one partner must be a man and the other a woman."
Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder decided earlier this year that the law, commonly known as DOMA, is unconstitutional on equal protection grounds and that the administration would no longer defend it in court. House Republicans hired an outside counsel to defend it instead. However, the administration said it would continue to enforce the law, while exercising discretion on a case-by-case basis.
ICE's director, John Morton, issued a memorandum in June that offered guidance to agents in making enforcement decisions. Because no law enforcement agency can pursue every case, they routinely prioritize where to commit the government's limited resources.
The memorandum said prosecutions should seek to promote "national security, border security, public safety and the integrity of the immigration system."
Makk meets several of the circumstances specified in the memorandum. Aside from being a spouse of an American citizen, he is also the primary caretaker of a citizen, has no criminal history, and has legally resided in the country under various visas for many years.
The couple said they spent nearly $2,000 to file the petition that was denied, and now must decide whether to file a motion to reconsider the decision, which Wells said would almost certainly be denied, giving the couple at most another 30 days of residency.
Makk gave up a professional career in Australia to be with Wells, and started a business in San Francisco and invested in rental property to meet various visa requirements. He said he has never remained in the country illegally.
Wells could move to Australia, but he said doing so would require him to give up his extensive medical care and insurance in the United States.
"We are appealing to the Obama administration to begin to put into action what they've said repeatedly they can do," said Immigration Equality spokesman Steve Ralls. "The Department of Homeland Security and ICE have said again and again that they can exercise discretion in individual cases, but they have not done so for a single gay or lesbian couple yet."
In rare cases, lawmakers can introduce so-called private bills to shield specific immigrants from deportation, but only after deportation proceedings have begun. Such bills are considered a last resort.
Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said Pelosi has contacted immigration officials on behalf of the couple and "will be working to exhaust all appropriate immigration remedies that are open to pursue."
S.A. ranked No. 1 for LGBT families raising kids
Posted on 06/30/2011 by cquinn
Citing a report, from scholar Gary Gates of UCLA’s Williams Institute, on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender population in the U.S. and information from the American Community Survey Office of the U.S. Census Bureau, The Atlantic has compiled a list of the top 15 U.S. metropolitan areas that are most friendly to same sex couples raising children.
San Antonio was ranked No. 1!
The Atlantic says the data shows that the San Antonio-New Braunfels metro area has 33.9 percent of same-sex couples raising kids younger than 18-years-old.
Jacksonville, Fla., was second with 32.4 percent.
Other Texas metro areas on the list were the Houston area at No. 7 at 27.2 percent and Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington at No. 12 at 24.9 percent.
The full list can be found at:
New York governor calls for gay marriage vote
NEW YORK (AFP) – New York could vote within days on a bill making the state the sixth in the country to allow gay marriage, officials said.
Same-sex nups have previously failed to pass in New York but newly-elected Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is championing the measure and on Tuesday submitted a bill extending full marital rights to couples regardless of gender.
"From the fight for women's suffrage to the struggle for civil rights, New Yorkers have been on the right side of history. But on the issue of marriage equality, our state has fallen behind," Cuomo said in a statement.
Lawmakers break on Monday for a recess, meaning the showdown could come as early as this week.
If the law is passed, New York would join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia -- home to the capital Washington -- in allowing the controversial measure.
Cuomo is assured of support in the Democrat-controlled lower house but the state Senate turned down a similar attempt under his predecessor David Paterson in 2009.
The bill needs 32 votes in the 62-seat Senate to pass. So far, 30 senators have promised support.
State Senator Jim Alesi, who until recently has been the only Republican backing the bill, told the Wall Street Journal: "I'm not only voting for the bill, I'm encouraging others who feel like they can to do it as well."
Bankruptcy court rules against gay-marriage ban
By PAUL ELIAS, Associated Press Paul Elias, Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO – The country's largest consumer bankruptcy court has ruled that the federal law prohibiting same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.
The Los Angeles-based federal court made the ruling Monday in the case of a gay couple seeking to file a joint bankruptcy petition. The couple wed during the 2008 window when same-sex marriage was briefly legal in California.
A Justice Department lawyer wanted the petition dismissed, citing the Defense of Marriage Act, which limits marriage to a man and a woman.
The Obama administration has said it believes the act is unconstitutional but opposed the couple's petition to give Congress a chance to intervene in the case. Congress failed to respond.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Donovan wrote Monday that the Defense of Marriage Act violates equal protection laws. He allowed the couple to file a joint petition.
Gay judge's same-sex marriage ruling upheld
By LISA LEFF, Associated Press Lisa Leff, Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO – A federal judge on Tuesday upheld a gay judge's ruling that struck down California's same-sex marriage ban, noting that his fellow jurist could not be presumed to have a personal stake in the case just because he was in a long-term relationship with another man.
In a 19-page ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware said former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker had no obligation to divulge whether he wanted to marry his own gay partner before he declared last year that voter-approved Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.
Ware called it the first case in which a judge's same-sex relationship had led to calls for disqualification. He said there probably were similar struggles when race and gender were the issues.
The ruling does not settle the legal fight over Proposition 8. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering whether Walker properly concluded that denying gays and lesbians the right to marry violates their rights to due process and equal protection.
In his ruling, Ware cited previous cases dealing with women and minority judges in concluding that his predecessor had acted appropriately.
"The sole fact that a federal judge shares the same circumstances or personal characteristics with other members of the general public, and that the judge could be affected by the outcome of a proceeding in the same way that other members of the general public would be affected, is not a basis for either recusal or disqualification," he wrote.
Lawyers for backers of the ban argued at a hearing Monday that Walker should have recused himself or disclosed his relationship because he and his partner stood to personally benefit from the verdict.
Walker publicly revealed after he retired in February that he is in a 10-year relationship with a man. Rumors that he was gay had circulated before and after he presided over the trial in early 2010.
Ware crisply rejected the idea that judges who are members of minority groups have more of a vested interest in the outcome of civil rights cases based on the U.S. Constitution than anyone else.
"We all have an equal stake in a case that challenges the constitutionality of a restriction on a fundamental right," Ware wrote. "The single characteristic that Judge Walker shares with the plaintiffs, albeit one that might not have been shared with the majority of Californians, gave him no greater interest in a proper decision on the merits than would exist for any other judge or citizen."
Many legal scholars had not expected Ware to overturn Walker's decision. They said having a judge's impartiality questioned because he is gay is new territory, but efforts to get female judges thrown off gender discrimination cases or Hispanic judges removed from immigration cases have failed.
Walker did not attend Monday's hearing on the matter.
A fight against lingering hatred
Equality Texas addresses sexual orientation issues.
By Melissa Ludwig
Updated 12:55 a.m., Monday, May 16, 2011
Today's youth are more accepting of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered people, or GLBT, than older generations, but hatred and harassment are still alive and well and must be fought.
That was the message at a Sunday luncheon for Equality Texas, an Austin-based nonprofit that advocates the elimination of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the city's first openly gay mayor, said many GLBT people carry around internal scars and find it difficult to speak up for themselves and others. “Until we believe we are just as equal, just as worthy, that our cause has an essential rightness to it, we are not going to win the war,” Parker said at the Pearl Stable.
For Equality Texas, a battle is raging in the Texas Legislature, where GLBT activists are trying to pass an anti-bullying bill and quash a bill that would deny marriage rights to transgendered people.
An anti-bullying proposal that passed in the House would make it easier for schools to punish bullies and mandate that school boards adopt policies to encourage prevention, reporting and investigation of bullying incidents.
That bill could have helped Asher Brown, a 13-year-old boy who killed himself in September after months of harassment by bullies at Hamilton Middle School in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.
His peers accused him of being gay, and some performed mock gay acts on him in his physical education class, according to news reports. Brown told his stepfather he was gay the day he shot himself in the head.
His parents, David and Amy Truong, say in the months prior they complained about the bullying repeatedly to school officials, who did nothing. School officials deny that claim.
The Truongs, who spoke at Sunday's luncheon, hope the anti-bullying bill will force schools to pay attention. “These kids don't deserve to be tortured,” Amy Truong said. “These things have to change.”
Passing the anti-bullying bill would be a “game changer” for Equality Texas, said Anne Wynne, chair of the organization and a straight ally. Typically, the group spends its time trying to block bills that would hurt the GLBT community. Rarely do they get a chance to support bills that would help it, she said.“The momentum is ours,” Wynne said.
San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro lent his support to the cause, saying he believed the divisions between supporters and opponents of GLBT rights are slowly crumbling.
“A newer, younger generation of Texans will understand how important is to ... love who you want to love, and marry who you want to marry,” Castro said.
Texas may strip away transgender marriage rights
By JIM VERTUNO, Associated Press Jim Vertuno, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas – Two years after Texas became one of the last states to allow transgendered people to use proof of their sex change to get a marriage license, Republican lawmakers are trying to roll back the clock.
Advocates for the transgendered say a proposal to bar transgendered people from getting married smacks of discrimination and would put their legally granted marriages in danger of being nullified if challenged in court.
One of the Republican sponsors of the legislation said he's simply trying to clean up the 2009 law in a state that bans same-sex marriage under the constitution."The Texas Constitution," Sen. Tommy Williams said, "clearly defines marriage between one man and one woman."
The legislation by Williams, of Houston, and Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, of Brenham, would prohibit county and district clerks from using a court order recognizing a sex change as documentation to get married, effectively requiring the state to recognize a 1999 state appeals court decision that said in cases of marriage, gender is assigned at birth and sticks with a person throughout their life even if they have a sex change.
Most states allow transgendered people to get married using a court order that also allows them to change their driver's license, experts said. Some advocates for the transgendered say the Texas proposal would not only prevent future transgendered marriages but also open up the possibility that any current marriage could be nullified.
"It appears the goal is to try to enshrine a really horrifying ruling and making it law in the state of Texas," said John Nechman, a Houston attorney whose law firm does work for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community.
Gov. Rick Perry's spokesman Mark Miner said the governor never intended to allow transgendered people to get married. He said the three-word sex change provision was sneaked through on a larger piece of legislation Perry signed two years ago regarding marriage licensing rules for county and district clerks. Perry, a Republican, supports efforts to "clarify the unintended consequences" of that law, Miner said.
"The governor has always believed and advocated that marriage is between a man and a woman," Miner said.
Williams said he understands that some people's gender cannot easily be determined when they are born and they later have an operation that could change the originally assigned gender.
But when asked about claims of discrimination, Williams insisted his goal is to simplify marriage licensing for clerks who are trying to balance the 2009 law with the 1999 Texas appeals court ruling.
"They shouldn't have to resolve these issues," Williams said. "We have confused them."
Williams' legislation has cleared a committee vote and now awaits approval by the full Senate, which is predominantly Republican. The version in the GOP-dominated House has not yet been given a hearing.
Some advocates for the transgendered say that even if the legislation is passed, transgendered people could still get marriage licenses using other state and federally-issued documents such as a drivers' license or passport. But without the weight of a court order officially recognizing their gender reassignment, they worry any legal challenge, such as a divorce or estate dispute, would nullify the marriage.
"We want to be recognized as people. We want to have the same rights as all of you," Lisa Scheps of the Transgender Education Network of Texas said at a March hearing on Williams' bill. No one testified in favor of the legislation.
Kolkhorst, who authored the 2009 law that allowed the sex change documentation to be used in getting marriage licenses, did not respond to messages left at her office seeking comment on why she now wants to take it out.
The 2009 law originally was filed without the sex change document provision, but House records show Kolkhorst put it in as part of a lengthy amendment in the last month of the session. The changed legislation passed the House and Senate and Perry signed it into law a month later.
"It would be terrible for Texas, now that it finally caught up with the rest of the country, to take a step back," said Shannon Minter, an attorney for the national Transgender Law and Policy Institute. He said most states allow marriages for people who have undergone sex reassignment surgery.
Nikki Araguz was at the Capitol last week to lobby against the legislation. Her husband, a volunteer firefighter, was killed in the line of duty in July and she is being sued by her dead husband's family over control of his $600,000 estate.
Araguz had a final sex change operation in October 2008, two months after they were married, and says her husband knew and supported her. His family argues the marriage should be voided because Araguz was born a man and same-sex marriage is not legal in Texas. A hearing is scheduled for May 13.
"This is crazy. I feel like this is a personal attack on me," Araguz told The Associated Press. "If this bill is passed, it essentially means women like myself who have had reconstructive surgery will not be allowed to marry their heterosexual partner."
Pentagon defends lifting ban on gays in military
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon said Friday the military should be trained in working with openly gay members by summer's end, prompting House Republicans to complain that repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" was moving too quickly in wartime.
In a status report to Congress, Clifford Stanley, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and Vice Adm. William Gortney of the Joint Staff said the Pentagon was moving forward on educating members of the military on the new policy, what's expected of them and the responsibilities for commanders and other leaders.
President Barack Obama signed the law last year repealing the 17-year ban after a fierce fight in Congress. The repeal did not occur immediately, however, as training and certification by the department were required before the ban is lifted. Stanley said the department was moving "deliberately, responsibly and expeditiously toward repeal," with the training that began around March 1 to be finished by summer's end.
"Implementing repeal embodies that view of total force readiness — more simply put — it is about respect," Stanley told a House Armed Services subcommittee. "Respect for change and respect for the men and women of our all-volunteer force to serve this great nation, no matter their race, color, creed, religion or sexual orientation."
Polls last December showed widespread support for ending the ban, with three-quarters of Americans saying openly gay men and women should be allowed to serve in the military in an ABC News-Washington Post survey. But Republicans on the House subcommittee, especially those who were elected last November, argued the repeal was a mistake when the nation was involved in three wars — Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
"We are now looking at a behavior and we are trying to conform the military to a behavior," said Rep. Allen West, R-Fla.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., asked how the new policy would improve readiness of the military.
Stanley said it was too early to tell, but added: "We do know from an integrity standpoint that we won't have members lying about who they are."
Freshman Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., questioned how much money the Pentagon was taking from war fighting to spend on training for the new policy. Stanley said it was $10,000, a minor amount when the Pentagon spends hundreds of billions annually.
Scott, who found the amount hard to believe, remained opposed to repeal. He said service members would not re-enlist, with the military and country losing "because of this social policy."
On the opposite side, Democrats on the panel questioned whether the new policy could be implemented faster, pointing out that millions were spent on service members with specialty skills such as Arab linguists who were then discharged because of their sexual orientation.
Don't Ask' repeal training to begin
By Jim Garamone Published 12:01 a.m., Thursday, February 24, 2011
Training will begin shortly for experts in certain specialties and leaders as part of the plan for finalizing repeal of the law that bars gay men, lesbians and bisexuals from serving openly in the military, the chief of staff for the Defense Department's repeal implementation team said here today.
Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Steven A. Hummer outlined the process in an interview.
President Barack Obama signed the repeal of the law commonly known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Dec. 22, beginning a process that will culminate in full repeal.
The current policy remains in effect until 60 days after the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the president certify the military's readiness to implement the repeal.
Gates has said he wants repeal done expeditiously and effectively, and that it can happen this year.
Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, issued a memo Feb. 10, to the military secretaries on the implementation plan.
"The memo continues the pre-implementation process," Hummer said. Now, the general added, the team is ensuring all the policies are prepared so that when repeal day actually occurs they will go into effect.
The implementation team also is ensuring that training is in place for all 2.2 million members of the military. The Defense Department, along with representatives from all five services, developed and synchronized the training.
"The services will each put their colors and their appropriate culture into those [plans]," he said.
Covenant House of Texas becomes a homeless shelter for GLBT
After an intense effort to help the Covenant House of Texas become an outstanding homeless shelter for GLBT youth the CHT board of directors have passed sweeping changes to incorporate glbt homeless youth policies. These approved policy changes are attached to this email. After over a decade of disputes between the local GLBT community surrounding the CHT, GLBT youth are now able to find a facility that wants to help them and protect them. In addition to these changed policies, the CHT is working on implementing a Safe Zone Program to help GLBT youth thrive and become productive citizens. In addition, the Covenant House national office wants to use the Houston office as a pilot program to institute the changes across the nation.
Click here for more information.
Texas Safe Schools Coalition
Youth Suicide in Texas Research
Teaching Tolerance Program addresses Bullying in our Communities
Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi jumped off a bridge after his roommate surreptitiously broadcast online an intimate encounter between Tyler and another man.
Tragically, Tyler's death was just one of a number of suicides committed in recent weeks by teens who were harassed by their classmates because they were gay or perceived to be gay.
In Texas, for example, 13-year-old Asher Brown shot himself after enduring relentless taunting at his middle school. In California, 13-year-old Seth Walsh hanged himself when he couldn't take the bullying any longer ? as did Billy Lucas, 15, in Indiana.
This is just the toll from September ? and only the suicides that made headlines.
Thankfully, the crisis of anti-gay bullying is now getting national attention.
But putting a stop to it is another matter. Through our renowned Teaching Tolerance project, we've launched a major campaign to combat anti-gay bullying in our schools.
Just last night in Washington, D.C., we premiered an important new documentary film ? Bullied: A School, a Student and a Case that Made History ? that will be shown this fall in thousands of schools and communities across America. This powerful film chronicles the story of a Wisconsin student who stood up to his tormentors and won a landmark federal court decision holding that school officials could be held accountable for not stopping the harassment and abuse of gay students.
Our film, along with its viewer's guide, is designed for both classroom use and teacher professional development. We're making it available ? free of charge ? to every school in America.
Unfortunately, organizations like Focus on the Family are pushing schools to ignore this crisis. They say that schools should remain "neutral" and not mention gay and lesbian students in their bullying policies.
But history teaches us that this is the wrong approach. As Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said, "Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim."
We know nothing will change, and thousands of children will continue to suffer violence and humiliation, until schools confront the problem head on. We need every school in America to adopt a strong anti-bullying policy that specifically protects gay students. No child should ever feel unsafe at school.
You can help.
Please talk to educators in your community to see whether your schools have adopted policies to prevent anti-gay bullying. If not, urge them to do so immediately. And urge them to order a free copy of Bullied for their school. Your action could save lives and help prevent families from being shattered by a child's suicide.
Thank you for supporting our work. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of children who are suffering from bigotry and injustice. We can help make our schools become places where all children are safe and have equal opportunities to learn.
J. Richard Cohen
President, Southern Poverty Law Center
Obama extends health care rights to gay partners
WASHINGTON – In a move hailed as a step toward fairness for same-sex couples, President Barack Obama is ordering that nearly all hospitals allow patients to say who has visitation rights and who can help make medical decisions, including gay and lesbian partners.
The White House on Thursday released a statement by Obama instructing his Health and Human Services secretary to draft rules requiring hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments to grant all patients the right to designate people who can visit and consult with them at crucial moments.
The designated visitors should have the same rights that immediate family members now enjoy, Obama's instructions said. It said Medicare-Medicaid hospitals, which include most of the nation's facilities, may not deny visitation and consultation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
The move was called a major step toward fairness for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
"This is a critical step in ending discrimination against LGBT families and ensuring that, in the event of a hospital stay, all Americans have the right to see their loved ones," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The new rules, Obama said, should "guarantee that all patients' advance directives, such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies, are respected," and that patients' designees be able to "make informed decisions regarding patients' care."
Some gay advocacy groups say Obama has moved too slowly to fulfill campaign promises to expand their civil rights. The nation's top military leaders recently said it is time to end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that has kept gays from serving openly in the armed services.
The Human Rights Campaign, which backs gay rights, called Obama's decision an "important action" that was inspired in part by a New York Times article about a lesbian couple in Miami. They were kept apart while one lay dying in a hospital despite having an "advanced health care directive" asking for full visitation rights for each other.
"Discrimination touches every facet of the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, including at times of crisis and illness," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "The president's action today will help ensure that the indignities" suffered by the Miami patient and her children will not happen to others.
In his statement, Obama said: "Every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides — whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay. Often, a widow or widower with no children is denied the support and comfort of a good friend."
He added: "Also uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives — unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated."
Without the expanded visitor-designation rights, Obama said, "all too often, people are made to suffer or even to pass away alone, denied the comfort of companionship in their final moments while a loved one is left worrying and pacing down the hall."
The Dawn of Genderless Children
Click here for the full story.
Bisexuality 101 by PFLAG
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