Care2 Exclusive: Gay Kiss Gets Man Barred From Partner’s Bedside


When on July 17 Paul Zilber went to visit his fiance at Saint Barnabas Behavioral Health Center, in Toms River, New Jersey, his focus was of course on his boyfriend’s well-being. What Paul says he experienced however, was unlawful anti-gay discrimination at the hands of the center’s nursing staff.

Paul’s partner was receiving treatment at Saint Barnabas for mental health issues related to what had appeared to be a suicide attempt. Paul, 20, who was visiting at the same time as his partner’s grandparents, said that everything was fine on the day in question until a conversation with one of the nursing staff turned sour.

“Everything went okay, until a nurse who knew I was [name redacted]‘s boyfriend referred to me as his ‘friend.’ He corrected her and said that I was his partner. She replied with, ‘Oh your partner in crime?’ I said, ‘No, I’m his boyfriend, thank you.’ She then sighed and said ‘Oh… .’ She rolled her eyes, and gave me a thumbs up and walked away.”

Feeling this was inappropriate behavior from the nurse in question, Paul reported the nurse to the relevant staff, whereby he was told that it was “just a joke.” However, when Paul and his partner’s grandparents were preparing to leave for the evening, Paul alleges things turned from bad to worse.

After his partner’s grandparents both hugged and kissed his partner goodbye, Paul went to do the same. He says he was then “cornered” by two nurses who ran across the room to yell at him, “No contact, that is inappropriate.”

Paul maintains that the affection he had shown his partner was entirely appropriate for the setting. He therefore wanted to know why he was being singled out in this way.

“I then asked the nurse why it was okay for everyone else to give hugs and kisses but it was not okay for me?” Paul told Care2 he then gave his partner another kiss goodbye because the first kiss had been interrupted. “She then told another nurse to take me off his list of allowed visitors.” Not knowing how long his partner would be hospitalized for, this was obviously very distressing for Paul. ”I was very upset, and every time I would call a nurse would say, ‘I’m sorry, we have an order that we cannot speak to you, and that he cannot speak to you.’”

Paul says he was told some days later that he would be allowed to visit his partner, but the olive branch was conditional: ”I was then told, ‘He can come back if he promises to be appropriate.’ At that point, I walked out of the hospital,” he said.

Paul told me his partner’s grandparent, who witnessed the incident, also found it distressing, reportedly challenging the nursing staff, “Why are you harassing these two young men?”

Sadly, this was not the only incident of homophobia Paul says had occurred during his partner’s stay at Saint Barnabas. Paul’s partner had previously told him that when it became obvious they were in a gay relationship together, staff had made him feel uneasy as they went about their duties caring for him. Paul also claims that some of the nurses started wearing their wedding bands on different fingers after seeing his partner’s engagement ring. Paul also told Care2 that following his complaint over the alleged harassing behavior, a nurse came up to him and said, “I hope you’re happy, because my job is on the line.”

Paul’s partner, under a reported threat of legal action from his grandparents, was released the day after this incident.

“[He] felt like he had to get out, or he would lose his mind,” Paul said. “He came into the hospital for mental help, and they only made it worse for him. He felt as if he was being judged.”

Last year, the Obama administration issued new guidelines on existing federal anti-discrimination rules, making it explicitly clear that for hospitals and medical facilities running Medicare and Medicaid, it is a violation of federal law to deny access to a same-sex spouse or partner, and that such a denial of rights can cost the hospital its federal funding.

Saint Barnabas, part of the Barnabas Behavioral Health Network, is a JCAHO accredited freestanding 40-bed acute care psychiatric facility that provides inpatient, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs for adults diagnosed with psychiatric and dual disorders. Saint Barnabas participates in both the Medicare and Medicaid programs and if it were proven that the treatment Paul and his partner faced was solely bias-motivated, and that hospital staff did indeed move to bar Paul for no other reason than a same-sex kiss, it would appear that the center would be open to a legal challenge.

Paul, wanting to explore his options regarding fighting what he sees as a clear case of discrimination, is now working with local equality groups. “If this does not get resolved, we will have no choice but to sue for discrimination and harassment. How are you supposed to get help for personal issues when you are surrounded by people who do not accept you for who you are?”

Paul also has a message for other families in the area, saying, “To all LGBT families, do not go to this behavioral center.”

A request for comment from Saint Barnabas has, at the time of publication, gone unanswered.

Paul, wanting to raise awareness of the alleged incident, started a petition here at Care2. At the time of writing, that petition has over 8,000 signatures.

Take Action: Add your name to Paul’s Care2 petition and stand up for same-sex couples like Paul and his partner.


Related Reading:

Republican Stars in Washington Marriage Equality Ad

WWII Veteran on Why Marriage Equality Matters (VIDEO)

‘Gay Marriage Potential’ Means Church Won’t Sell to Couple


Image provided by Paul Zilber.


Philippa Hughes
Philippa Hughes4 years ago

This is disgraceful! The offending nurse complains that " job's on the line!" And so it should be!

Susie Bee
Susie Bee4 years ago

As a mental health professional in training myself, aside from being discriminatory, the care that this patient was receiving from these nurses was nothing short of incompetent. Homophobia probably had a lot to do with why he was receiving services to begin with!

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

shame on the staff. on each and every one of them who took part and those who saw and didn't report.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin5 years ago

When it happens to you, Miranda, maybe it's not nonsense anymore?

Louise Peacock
Louise Peacock5 years ago

Totally inappropriate responses from this so-called health institution. Hope they lose their funding as a result. Really bad.

Lauren Gray
Lauren G5 years ago

The nurses judgement and behavior were so very very wrong! I am so disgusted by the nurses comment " job is on the line..." I question what good can this person can even do in this job, really why is this person a nurse in the first place?!?! They are obviously careless! I am a nurse and this article made me feel the need to speak out to let people know this nurse was wrong and does not represent the rest of nurses. The core of the nursing professionals job is to care and hold all human beings with great reverence in their hearts, there is never a reason to judge and they don't! I am glad these young men have a good petition and hope that facility can fix this major flaw so it doesn't happen to anyone else. Btw federal funding or not... to love and be loved is a human right, all patients should have that freedom, such a right should be respected and encouraged regardless of how a facility manages its finances! In my opinion just because a facility can afford to be funded privately it still shouldn't be allowed to practice with disregard to that human right!

Olivia S.
Past Member 5 years ago

signed 8/1, thanks

Jonjon Hoy
Jonjon Hoy5 years ago

Bogus of the Hospital. How many GAY STAFF's does each and every hospital have. Quite a few............! Encluding doctors and nurces who are GAY............!

Sandra Streifel
Sandra S5 years ago

I'm sure glad that Barnabas Health Care has come out with a policy statement in support of the Medicare/Medicaid guidelines and, of course, professional nursing care of families since I was in school in 1980, at least. How staff turned around and blamed the patient for their discipline in the matter of their bias (and the fact that the patient was left in the care of the disciplined health care workers!!!), just blows my mind. How much longer will we have to wait before LGBTQ people have civil rights nationally, and human rights in truth.

Betsy Ross
Betsy Ross5 years ago

What a cute couple! I hope these nurses learned to be more professional and accepting, rather than letting this experience build the hate in their hearts.