Janice Langbehn Awarded Presidential Citizens Medal

by Carolyn Simon

“Her Story Inspired our President to Address one of our Community’s Most Critical Needs, and for That She Has Earned the Nation’s Second-Highest Civilian Honor.”


Washington – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today honors Janice Langbehn, who was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Obama at a White House ceremony.  Janice Langbehn was on vacation in Florida in 2007 with her partner, Lisa Pond, and their three children when Lisa suffered a brain aneurism.  Lisa was rushed to the hospital, where Janice was told by staff that she was in an “antigay city and state” and that she didn’t have that right to be by her partner’s side.  Janice and their children were kept away from Lisa for nearly eight hours as she lay dying.  Upon hearing her tragic story, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum mandating all hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding – nearly every hospital in the country – to allow patients to designate who may visit them and to prohibit discrimination in visitation based on a number of factors, including sexual orientation and gender identity. 

“Janice Langbehn turned her family’s healthcare horror story into action and has worked hard to make sure other LGBT Americans aren’t denied the right to be at an ailing loved one’s bedside,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “Her story inspired our President to address one of our community’s most critical needs, and for that she has earned the nation’s second-highest civilian honor.”

“It is a great honor to receive the Presidential Citizens Medal,” said Janice Langbehn.  “It is my hope that my family’s loss, this medal, and the attention it brings to the discrimination our families have faced during the most difficult moments, will help ease suffering and ensure that no family has to go through what my family went through.”

The Presidential Citizens Medal recognizes Americans who have “performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.”  It is the second-highest civilian award in the U.S., second only to the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Past honorees include Rosa Parks and Dorothy Height.  This year the White House received nearly 6,000 public nominations for the medal.  President Obama chose 13 Medal recipients.  Janice Langbehn and the 12 other Medal recipients were honored at a White House ceremony earlier today. 

In 2010, the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) was dedicated to the memory of Lisa Pond and the advocacy of Janice Langbehn. The HEI is an annual report rating healthcare facilities on their policies and procedures related to LGBT patients and their families.  The HEI is a publication of the HRC Foundation that serves as an organizational assessment tool by assisting facilities in modifying their policies, and can help hospitals comply with Joint Commission standards addressing non-discrimination, and new HHS regulations on visitation. Healthcare administrators can obtain information on how to participate in the HEI survey at www.hrc.org/hei.

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.

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