HRC Blog

HRC Is Honored to Host Janice Langbehn, Presidential Citizens Medal Recipient

The following guest post comes from Janice Langbehn, who was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Obama at a White House ceremony today.

I had the distinct honor of receiving the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Obama at a White House ceremony today. I was moved when President Obama said, “We don’t choose the challenges we face, but how we respond is up to us.” I feel a renewed sense of the obligations of citizenship that go along with the rights. We all have an obligation to be dedicated to causes greater than ourselves -- our families, our neighbors, our communities.

In February 2007, there was no doubt in my mind that I belonged by my partner, Lisa’s, side at the hospital emergency room in Miami. She had suffered a brain aneurysm while we were on vacation with our children. I knew my obligation was to honor the vow we took at our Holy Union in 1991 and be by her side at her time of need.  Yet I was told by the hospital that I was in an “antigay city and state” and that I didn’t have that right.

We had taken all of the recommended steps to protect our family in case of a healthcare emergency. We had up-to-date advance healthcare directives and friends back home who were ready to assist, by faxing the papers to the hospital. But still I was kept away from my partner during her final moments of life. That was wrong.

Today, I am grateful to know that the President of the United States agrees with me and that he is doing something about this type of discrimination. This year the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under the President’s direction, established regulations to protect the hospital visitation rights of all families, including same-sex couples.

At the release of the guidelines for the regulations last month, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said “Couples take a vow to be with each other in sickness and in health and it is unacceptable that, in the past, some same-sex partners were denied the right to visit their loved ones in times of need.”

I am committed to spreading that message and I hope you will join me.

This week also marks the launch of HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) 2012 survey. The HEI rates policies and identifies best practices in LGBT patient-centered care. I urge every hospital to sign up to take the HEI survey  and demonstrate leadership in providing healthcare free from discrimination.

As my friends at HRC often say -- healthcare equality – it’s about quality healthcare.

Watch the official video from the White House:

Later in the day, Langbehn stopped by HRC's headquarters in Washington, D.C., to share her honor with the staff. Many wore purple in honor of Spirit Day and taking a stand against bullying.

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