HRC Blog

Protecting Your Rights as You Grow Older

It happens far too often. A couple who have spent decades together, building a home, building a life, find themselves vulnerable to unimaginable treatment in a healthcare setting where they have gone expecting compassionate care. That is the reality for many same-sex couples like Clay Greene and Harold Scull. The National Center for Lesbian Rights is representing Greene in a legal case, after a trip to the hospital with his ailing partner set off a chain of events that landed them both in separate nursing facilities, and resulted in their home that they shared together for 20 years being stripped of their belongings and sold by the County. Read more about the details of this case. We are all shocked and saddened that such things still happen, but remain focused on addressing the problem on every front. The action recently taken by President Obama ensuring equal hospital visitation access and decision-making rights for the LGBT community was a good first step. But until the Defense of Marriage Act is repealed and same-sex couples enjoy the full access to marriage, there remains an uneven patchwork of legal protections for the LGBT community. The Human Rights Campaign has been working to change the healthcare industry to make it more welcoming and culturally competent when serving LGBT patients. In 2009, we published “Breaking Down Barriers: An Administrators Guide to State Law & Best Policy Practice for LGBT Healthcare Access [PDF] in conjunction with the Healthcare Equality Index report. The definition of “family” in this guide was recently adopted by Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Fla., in response to a tragic incident that left a lesbian couple separated at the emergency room, being treated as strangers instead of family. It is our commitment to bring change to every hospital, nursing facility and the entire healthcare industry before a tragedy necessitates action. And, until the day when all families enjoy equal protection under the law, we will continue to educate the LGBT community on all critical steps that should be taken to protect your rights in healthcare settings.

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