Last night, without fanfare, President Obama ordered most hospitals in the country to grant the same visitation rights to gay and lesbian partners that they do to married heterosexual couples.

The President's memo came in response to the heartbreaking story of Janice Langbehn, who was kept from seeing her partner Lisa Pond as she slipped into a coma on February 17, 2007.

Pond collapsed during a family vacation but her partner for 17 years Janice Langbehn was forbidden to see her for over eight hours by hospital staff at the Jackson Memorial Hospital in Florida.

Langbehn begged and pleaded for hours to be given access to the room but was continually denied. In the end Langbehn was allowed in to see her partner for only five minutes as a priest gave Pond the last rites. She had to say her farewells before Pond actually died.

Langbehn was denied access to Lisa despite the fact that all the appropriate medical and legal forms were faxed to the hospital within 30 minutes. But Lisa Pond died alone. If that doesn't anger you or move you to tears nothing will.

It's about time the President signed this order. And any fair minded person would thank him for it. But of course today some conservative commentators couldn't help themselves:

'President Obama's memorandum clearly constitutes pandering to a radical special interest group (homosexual activists); undermining the definition of marriage..." wrote the lamentable Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council.

Sprigg would rather that gay people thrown out of the Emergency Room so their life partners can die alone if it prevents them from being granted full legal equality. Now you see what these concerned Christians are really about. Preventing gay people from living with the same dignity they insist on for themselves.

Because Sprigg says he doesn't object to gay people dying alone, he just objects to them living together with the legal same rights and entitlements that he enjoys himself.

But the right to hold someone’s hand as they die is NOT a GAY right it’s a HUMAN right. The president simply did the right thing. It remains to be seen if certain hospitals (Catholic ones come to mind) honor the spirit of the president's order and do the right thing now that it's in place finally.

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