President Barack Obama on Thursday honored gay rights advocate Janice Langbehn with the Presidential Citizens Medal at a reception at the White House.

Langbehn was among the 13 recipients this year to receive the nation's second-highest civilian honor.

“Janice Langbehn transformed her own profound loss into a resounding call for compassion and equality. When the woman she loved, Lisa Pond, suddenly suffered a brain aneurism, Janice and her children were denied the right to stand beside her in her final moments. Determined to spare others from similar injustice, Janice spoke out to help ensure that same-sex couples can support and comfort each other through some of life's toughest trials. The United States honors Janice Langbehn for advancing America's promise for equality for all,” a military officer read in introducing Langbehn.

Langbehn's story of being blocked by hospital officials from seeing her dying partner moved the president to sign a directive ordering the Department of Health and Human Services to establish new rules that would prevent hospitals from denying visitation rights to the partners of gay men and lesbians.

Langbehn and three of the couple's four adopted children were banned by Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida from being by Pond's side as she slipped into a coma and died in 2007. Officials dismissed the couple's advanced healthcare directive. Langbehn challenged the hospital's policy, but a federal court ruled against her in 2009.