As you may know, President Obama last night signed a memo that required hospitals that get Medicare and Medicaid funds to permit patients to designate who they’d like to be able to visit them. Now, this isn’t a law, it can be turned over by any future administration. And it doesn’t appear to help you if you’re unable to designate your partner as the person to visit you (e.g., you’re unconscious).
It’s an important issue. But is it, as David Smith of the Human Rights Campaign called it, “a huge deal”? Or is it a step that the President announced at a fundraiser in order to placate the gay community, before a tough mid-term election, with a small step to make up for all the big steps (ENDA, DOMA, DADT) that the administration has backed away from? And does HRC really think this is a huge deal, or are they simply, yet again, working for the President rather than working for the community?
I think it’s pretty clear that this action was taken to try to placate the community just as Barney Frank, among others, has been publicly criticizing the President for his refusal to commit to repeal DADT this year. Frank has said that the President’s inaction is now costing us votes on the Hill. Just as the administration responded to the DOMA incest/pedophilia brief brouhaha by announcing a series of small measures to help the community (putting your partner’s name on your passport, and codifying (kind of) some benefits for the partners of gay federal employees (the administration keeps claiming these are new benefits, they’re not – gay federal employees have had access to these benefits for over a decade, and have been using), we’re again seeing some gay bait and switch. Rather than act on the big stuff, they’re choosing to amass a pile of smaller stuff that they hope will fool the community into thinking they’ve done “something huge.”
The day HRC finds its way back to the community and holds the President responsible for his promise to pass ENDA last year, and repeal DADT this spring, that would be a huge deal.