If we try to wring positives out of a terrible situation, I'm glad to see that two recent high-profile cases – one in Washington and the other in Florida – are bringing public attention to the problems of visitation for gay and lesbian partners during medical emergencies. I'm tempted to describe the rules governing these situations as barbaric, but I'll go with a nice, emotionless adjective instead: pointless. The practice advances no legitimate medical, social, or legal interest whatsoever.
I'd like to think that no matter how much one hates The Fags that, in a simple nod toward human decency, he or she could accept the rationale that if persons A and B spend 20 years in a relationship we might allow A to visit a hospital room for the last few hours of B's life. Far be it from me or anyone else to expect extreme social conservatives to have any class, but it would be great to think that they can treat their "enemies" with a modicum of respect. It does not seem hard, in my opinion, to disagree with someone vehemently about an issue, perhaps even hating one another, and still act like humans. If I'm in a room with Michelle Malkin and she collapses from a heart attack, I'm going to call an ambulance. If James Dobson's wife is dying, I'm not going to seek out a bureaucratic way to keep him out of her hospital room. These actions don't indicate friendship or kindness. It's merely the bare minimum recognition of what separates humans from hyenas.
The baffling thing about the case in Florida is that the people in question did everything "right." They had living wills, they had written Power of Attorney, and they had explicit advance directives. The hospital's half-assed justifications refer to "the amount of visitation allowed in a trauma emergency room should be decided by the surgeons and nurses treating the patients.” Would having one more person in the room have made any difference, medically or practically, in treating this patient? (note: she was alone in the room and barely conscious for about 12 hours) And if allowing a family member to see the soon-to-be departed conflicts with legitimate medical concerns, how do we explain the curious lack of news stories about people who are Opposite Married (my new favorite euphemism) having the same experience? Well, OK, it can happen if you're a black male but overall there is hardly an epidemic of "traditional" families suffering the same treatment.
In summary, this is a rule selectively applied which serves absolutely no purpose. Leave Teh Gayness out of it for a minute. If doctors are not actively treating the patient, what harm can come from having a visitor, be it a spouse, sibling, child, paperboy, or stranger? There are inherent pitfalls in policies that seek to limit something to "immediate" or "real" family. What if a child is raised by his aunt and uncle? Are they "real" enough to get the rights afforded biological parents? What if an adult has no immediate family and instead relies on a close network of friends for support throughout a long, terminal illness? Do we tell her "Sorry, you don't have a family, so no visitors"? The law appears ill-equipped to answer such questions. But it does know that it don't like the gays.
In wars, people spend all day trying to kill each another but still feed captured prisoners, provide medical treatment for enemy wounded, and bury one another's dead. It shouldn't be much to ask Americans, even Americans who despise one another and think that Fags are Goin' ta Hell, to recognize some very basic, very minimal rules. Very little about the homophobic segment of the population shocks me, but you would have to color me legitimately shocked, maybe even appalled, to discover that they derive any benefit or pleasure from the idea that people who love one another and spend their lives together – even in a manner of which one does not approve – are kept apart in the last hours of someone's life.