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Same-Sex Couples To Receive Visitation Privileges

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Under Obama's order, Cathy Renna and her partner, Leah, will be able to visit one another in the hospital.
Cathy Renna
Under Obama's order, Cathy Renna and her partner, Leah, will be able to visit one another in the hospital.

By Rebecca Sheir

Hospitals participating in Medicare or Medicaid will be required to grant same-sex partners visitation rights under a new order by President Obama. Members of the Washington areas LGBT community are applauding the move.

Cathy Renna and her partner, Leah, are not yet married. But the resident of D.C. says they carry what they call marriage in a box: documents and legal papers they can show should one of them get sick or injured.

"Can you imagine being left in a waiting room," she says, "or standing at the glass doors of the emergency room, denied access to the person that you love and are committed to, who wants you to be the person making their medical decisions in the case of an emergency - its terrifying."

Mr. Obama is ordering the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that all hospitals getting Medicare and Medicaid funds honor all patients' advance directives, including designating who gets visitation privileges.

Renna owns a communications company in the D.C. area that deals primarily with LGBT issues. She says she applauds this move, but is also worried about potential blow back.

"Hospitals that don't want to comply with this memo could say that this memo is in violation of the Defense of Marriage Act," she says, "which is a federal piece of legislation."

Renna says she feels lucky to live in D.C., where gay marriage is recognized, but she foresees many battles ahead for LGBT communities across the country.

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