Together 18 years. That should mean something. But when it came to Janice Langbehn pleading with Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Trauma Center staff to let her see her partner Lisa-Marie Pond, who collapsed from a brain aneurysm suddenly in 2007 after boarding a cruise-ship, Langbehn was denied access, even when she received the proper documentation (within just 30 minutes of arriving at the hospital) called a life-care proxy allowing her to make medical and end-of-life decisions on Pond’s behalf.
Eight hours passed. Eight long, torturous hours where Langbehn was consistently denied information. Then, finally, access was granted. Too little, too late though, as by this time Pond had descended into a coma from which she never regained consciousness.
The four children that the couple had adopted were also denied access to their mother.
Same-sex marriage in Florida is banned, and just a few months ago, voters approved the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment, to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Conservatives say it’s needed to protect families-
-but where was the protection, the basic rights, in fact, for this family?
Two years have passed, and with the help of Lambda Legal Janice Langbehn is bringing a Federal case against the hospital to begin within the next few weeks according to a recent New York Times article. Her lawyers argue, “This is not just about same-sex couples… this is about protecting the legal access that a parent has to see a child, or an essential loved ones right to be aware of what is going on with their loved one.”- The words of attorney Donald Hayden as he told the court why it was necessary that this case should be tried.
Janice Langbehn will not be seeking monetary compensation according to Lambda Legal.
The bitter truth of the case, however, is that the Jackson Memorial Hospital (pictured) staff were legally, technically – and it’s a technicality that burns to even think about – right. They were right. Families built around gay people, to them, in the eyes of the law, are not families at all. That is why Janice Langbehn represents every gay family across America and throughout the Western world. Her struggle to overcome the second-class status enforced on LGBT’s is our struggle.
And this is why DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act (1996), needs to be repealed. U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) reportedly commented during an interview on Saturday with the Michigan Messenger that within the House Judiciary Committee, the votes were there for such a move. The House and the Senate, well, they were a different matter, but that first step to Federally recognizing gay marriage feels tantalizingly close.
And whilst I wish Janice Langbehn success with her Federal case against the hospital, that it might send a message to all other hospitals throughout America that they, in turn, must allow the patient to “define their circle of intimacy” as Lambda Legal attorney Beth Littrell so elegantly put it, this would only be a stop-gap measure.
Repealing DOMA seems to be the only way to stop tragedies like this from happening over and over again, because the legal allowance it would give would mean, even if a gay, lesbian or transgender couple were out of state when a medical emergency hit, their union would still be recognized.
So please, sign this petition to ask President Obama to keep his promise and to repeal DOMA. The only agenda here is to allow partners that love one another the same rights as everyone else, to ensure that adopted children can see a dying parent one last time in the hospital, and that, finally, 18 years of commitment like that which existed between Janice Langbehn and Lisa Marie Pond are given the legal status that such a relationship warrants– no, correction, what such a love demands.
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