Reaction from President Obama's memo
that bans hospitals from discriminating against gay men and lesbians
is running predictably along ideological lines.
The order signed by the president late
Thursday prohibits hospitals that accept federal funding from
Medicare and Medicaid, the government's elderly and poor health care
programs, from discriminating on the basis of a variety of
characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
It also prevents hospitals from denying visitation rights to the
partners of gay men and lesbians, and requires officials to honor
patients' wishes of who can make medical decisions on their behalf.
Gay rights groups called the memo a
small but significant contribution towards equality in the absence of
the legal right to marry in most jurisdictions.
“The president's directive is a
small, but welcome step forward,” Evan Wolfson, executive director
of Freedom to Marry, said in a statement. “It addresses one of the
many ways same-sex couples and their loved ones are made vulnerable
and harmed by the denial of marriage and the safety-net of
protections marriage brings – in this case, the assurance that a
spouse can be by a loved one's hospital bedside and participate in
medical decision-making at a time of great need.”
“Without marriage equality, this memo
is absolutely critical for ensuring that the federal government is
protecting the medical rights of all families and not discriminating
against certain classes of citizens,” New York Representative
Jerrold Nadler said in a statement.
“LGBT families need and deserve the
same civil rights as other American families, and I applaud this
progress in that long struggle,” he added.
Openly lesbian Wisconsin Representative
Tammy Baldwin said Obama's action “puts us another step closer
toward our goal of equal rights for all Americans and I applaud his
Social conservatives, however, decried
the president, saying he had overstepped his authority.
“Obama has created a 'homosexual Roe
v. Wade' by acting as a national dictator to impose gay rights on
American hospitals,” conservative Andy
Martin said in a press release.
In his bid to win the 2010 Illinois GOP
Senate primary, Martin claimed that his rival, Illinois
Representative Mark Kirk, is gay. Kirk, who has denied the claims,
went on to win the primary.
“Obama has created another monsoon
issue for Democrats, and another gift for Republicans and
conservatives,” Martin adds. “Ironically, Obama is actually
hurting the progress of gay acceptance. The backlash is going to
blow up in his face.”
It will take more than six months for
the Department of Health and Human Services to implement Obama's