The Supreme Court ruled today to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and expand the legal definition of marriage. Married people enjoy a slew of federal benefits and in California, gay couples already enjoy many of those same rights. One problem, however, is that some LGBT couples have faced hurdles accessing a number of those privileges.
In January 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services adopted a policy to address one important benefit that married couples already enjoyed: hospital visitation rights. Under that policy, people can choose practically any individual they would like to be at their hospital bedside, from a spouse to a partner to a friend. The policy is not specifically tailored to gays and lesbians; it applies to everyone.
Within the LGBT community in California, advocates say the visitation policy seems to be working well. There are far fewer people being denied the right to be with their loved ones in their time of need.
“I haven’t heard of anything in awhile in California,” said John Davidson of Lambda Legal, a civil rights advocacy group for lesbians and gay men. “A lot of hospitals have become more aware.”
But that’s not the case everywhere – and that can make a difference when people are visiting other states. Continue reading