HRC and Tennessee Equality Project Call on Hospitals to Review Visitation Policies

by HRC Staff

Tennessee hospital denies visitation to same-sex partner of patient, incident a clarion call to all hospitals to participate in HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index

WASHINGTON –The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, and the Tennessee Equality Project,  Tennessee’s only statewide organization dedicated to the protection and expansion of the rights of LGBT Tennesseans, together call on all hospitals to review their policies and practices related to hospital visitation after Rolling Hills Hospital in Franklin, Tennessee reportedly denied multiple requests by Val Burke to visit her partner who is currently a patient in the hospital's residential facility. Out and About Newspaper reports staff members excluded her from the room because she was not a legal spouse or family member. Such a denial would violate federal hospital visitation regulations.  While the incident at Rolling Hills Hospital has been resolved, it serves as a reminder of the importance of hospital visitation rights for LGBT Americans.  HRC and TEP call on all hospitals to participate in HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index (HEI).    

“Discrimination in a personal medical setting may be one of the worst forms of discrimination LGBT people face,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “Federal regulations were put in place for precisely this reason, to stamp discrimination out of the healthcare process and allow all people to be by their loved ones during their most vulnerable moments.”

“Denying a loving partner the right to be with his or her sick loved one shows the very personal side of anti-LGBT discrimination,” said TEP Nashville Chairman Chris Sanders.  “We hope hospitals across Tennessee and the country learn from this sad incident and ensure this never happens again.  The starting point of this learning process is to participate in the Healthcare Equality Index.”

In January of this year, federal regulations regarding patients’ hospital visitation rights went into effect.  The regulations require all hospitals participating in Medicaid and Medicare programs – virtually every hospital in the country – to permit patients to designate visitors of their choosing and prohibit discrimination in visitation based on a number of factors, including sexual orientation and gender identity. 

HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) is an annual survey of healthcare policies and practices related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients and their families.  The HEI can serve as an organizational assessment tool by assisting hospitals in modifying their policies, and can help hospitals comply with Joint Commission standards addressing non-discrimination, and new HHS regulations on visitation.  HRC invites, and TEP encourages, Rolling Hills Hospital to participate in the HEI 2012, which could help avoid future incidents of hospital visitation discrimination. 

The HEI survey is currently open for completion online.  More information is available at      

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

The Tennessee Equality Project is Tennessee’s only statewide organization dedicated to the protection and expansion of the rights of LGBT Tennesseans. Learn more about TEP at

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