On September 29th, a U.S. District Judge dismissed Janice Langbehn’s lawsuit against Jackson Memorial Hospital.
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In February of 2007, Janice and her life-partner Lisa Pond were beginning a vacation with three of their four children when Lisa collapsed on the deck of a cruise ship. Lisa was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital (Florida) and Janice followed with their children as quickly as she could.
Half an hour after arriving at the hospital, a social worker went to Janice and told her, ““you are in an anti-gay city and state. And without a health care proxy you will not see Lisa nor know of her condition.”
Janice, a former health care worker, responded quickly, having her legal Durable Powers of Attorney faxed to the hospital. In spite of this, Janice and their children were left in the waiting room with no information for several hours. Eventually a surgeon told her that Lisa had suffered an aneurysm and would have no recovery.
Lisa was in the trauma room for 8 hours, but Janice was denyed the comfort of being with her during her final hours, minutes. Their children, legal children of both Janice and Lisa, were not allowed in to say goodbye before their mother died. Jance continued to wait in a non-informational bubble until Lisa’s sister came to the hospital. At that time, Lisa’s sister was told that Lisa had been moved more than an hour ago. They had not bothered to tell Janice or their children, waiting in useless space. The blogpost explaining the case can be found here.
In some ways, this story has nothing to do with Same Sex Marriage. Power of Attorney is exactly the legal protection someone is told to get if they want to make sure they’ll be allowed to be present in the event of a loved one’s deathbed. This is the power that allows you to make medical decisions for someone, to stay informed on their condition, to be allowed to visit their bed if it is medically possible. If a gay woman with Power of Attorney was denied those rights, there is no reason to believe she would have been given information and access even if she had a legal marriage. There was NO legal basis to keep Janice away from Lisa as she lay dying. As for keeping out the children, there is no human explanation. It’s nothing short of hateful.
The dismissal of the case is an endorsement for Legal discrimination based on sexual orientation.
This is not being overly dramatic. If there is no other legal basis for the decision, it can only be legal discrimination. My concern, beyond the obvious unfairness, is that if it is “ok” to discriminate based on sexual orientation for ignoring Power of Attorney, perhaps it is also ok to discriniate for treatment. This may seem like a stretch, but the precedent has just been set. I only hope they appeal.
In other ways of course, this is entirely about gay marriage. I have never understood why people who feel it is “wrong” for gay people to marry, think their belief entitles them to make the marriage illegal. Laws are meant to protect us, not to cage us, at least in this supposedly free country. Having same sex marriage in no way harms those who feel it is immoral. Keeping it illegal on the other hand, harms many.
I do not however think that legalizing gay marriage is the solution. Rather, I think all “legal” marriage should be abolished. Too many people of this country have proven that they are incapable of understanding the difference between legal marriage and religious marriage. Here is the point: the rights given by a legal marriage CANNOT be determined by religious standards. It doesn’t matter if we call it a marriage or a bunny rabbit; the only thing the STATE can grant two people, any two people, is a civil union. Currently, most states call this civil union a marriage. A few states call civil unions a marriage when it is between a man and a woman, but a civil union when it’s between two men, or two women.
It’s idiotic. Let’s just call them all civil unions and be done with it. If marriage is so loaded a word that we automatically attach religious meaning to it, the state has no business granting it, any more than it should start baptizing babies, or mandating fasting periods.
It is as problematic to have the state grant marriages as it would be to have the state tell churches who can marry. If the idea of having two men marry seems wrong to you, imagine having the government tell your church that they must allow men to marry each other.
Leave marriage where it belongs: In church. It should be up to churches to decide who can and cannot marry. If your church says it’s a sin for a woman to love another woman, that is their right, no one can force them to allow it. That’s what a separation between church and state MEANS. Meanwhile, if those crazy Unitarian Universalists start marrying Jane and Jane, WHY SHOULD YOU CARE? Please. I am begging. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Let them live their lives freely.