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.

rights_2A priest came to give Lisa last rites, and Janice attended with him, seeing her life partner for the first time in five hours. After the rites, Janice was ushered back into the waiting room.

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.

rights_3In 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.

rights_1In 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.rights_glass

Posted by Meagan

Meagan is an artist, writer, and whatever else suits her at any given moment. She lives in the Cleveland area with her husband, son and too many cats. Meagan blogs at and cartoons at


i am completely with you on the idea that all state unions should be civil unions, regardless of gender. even though “marriage” has been applied to the state partnership as well as the religious one, they imply two different things. using the same term for both encourages the less reasonable to conflate them. you’re right in that “marriage” is a religiously loaded word, and for years now i haven’t been able to shake the idea that this would be a lot less messy had the state, when it started issuing partnership licenses for state benefits, called it anything other than what the churches called it.

nicolle- Yup… I think part of the issue is that as much as our founders intended a separation of church and state, religious life was so ingrained (even for those who weren’t religious themselves) that they didn’t even notice. It wouldn’t have occurred to Jefferson, Washington, Franklin to call it anything BUT marriage.

Did Jefferson, Washington and Franklin plan on having gay people marry. Probably NOT. Jefferson had slaves for crying out loud (Washington too? Don’t remember). We live in a different world from our forefathers, thankfully.

Well of course marriage is a religious word. I completely agree that all state unions should be called civil unions and the word marriage should be left out of it entirely.

Thankful we have evolved as a nation, however, our forefathers tried their utmost to make our laws flexible- and they CAN be changed to reflect the nations ideals, but we have a few old fuddy duddies who won’t budge on it. I think thats the problem. Not Jefferson, Washington or Franklin…but some of our current people who are clinging to Puritan Protestant ideals. I simply don’t think we are thinking progressively by those standards. nope nope.

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janice Langbehn

Absolutely beautiful rendition of the horror my family faced, please tell me how I can purchase the picture of me signing I love you to Lisa one last time with the kids around me.. you have moved me to tears

Bern – It doesn’t have to be a religious word. It can simply mean joining, but I think using a word that is a sacrament (or something parallel) in every major religion is confusing. Also, I agree that it isn’t Jefferson etc.’s faults… I wasn’t condemning them. I brought it up to forstall objections. I have no problem with people thinking gay marriage is immoral, or unnatural, or a sin. I DO have a problem with those people thinking they have the right to dictate how other people live… You think they’d realize that seperation of church and state also protects them from having some other religion come in and make laws about how THEY live… but no.

Jan – I sent you an email. Please let me know if you don’t get it.

Yeah babe I know you weren’t condemning them =P and I agree that the word marriage has become quite confusing because so many belief systems understand that word differently.

We still have a long way to go to make sure that religious freedom and separation from church and state is exactly that. I too have a problem with People telling another group of people how to live (especially when they aren’t hurting anyone!). They have no right doing that.

trowbridge chronicles

I enjoyed looking through your web site, your drawings and reading your views. I noticed you grew up on Eugene. I’m from Washington state. I’m so glad I’ve been able to stay in Washington. It’s a great part of the country. I own a cartoon map business. You might like to see a cartoon map I drew of the Eugene area:

Cold Spaghetti

I am just blown away by your artistic interpretation of this tragic, misguided, hateful event. Seeing the truth in your drawing makes me wonder if the hospital staff had seen them, and in doing so, been made to face the reality of the situation, would have done the right thing.

When I was married (legally) we had a couple (parents of a mutual friend) conduct the ceremony. It was in Virginia. Nothing about our ceremony was religious but in order for it to be “legal” it was required that the ceremony include the words “and in the presence of God” or something like that. It was annoying (the marriage was between the two of us, not with God) but it was the law.

In short, I think you’re right: issues of the family is still very much legally and religiously bound together. And it ultimately does us all a diss-service.

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Hi Honey,

I am proud to have you for my daughter. You are remarkable!

Love DAD

Thanks Dad. 🙂

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I found you via Holly at Cold Spaghetti and the Best of Just Posts awards. I never heard of this case until now, but I’m outraged this happened to these women and their children. I completely agree with you. Thanks for calling attention to this important issue through your drawings and writing.
.-= Kimberly´s last blog ..Eulogy =-.

Brilliant post and visuals, Meagan.

I love that commercial where the guy knocks on doors and asks people, “Can I marry Sinead?”
.-= Kitty´s last blog ..A Husband and Wife Discuss Their Dreams =-.

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