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.