Friday, April 16, 2010

Good start, but not there yet

President Obama has issued a directive that will require most US hospitals to allow visitation rights to same-sex partners of patients. The devil is in the details, of course.

In order to “enjoy visitation privileges that are no more restrictive than those that immediate family members” have, same-sex couples will require “legally valid advance directives (such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies)”, documents that are not enforceable in all states. Even where they are enforceable, it will require same-sex couples to go to an attorney and pay legal services fees as well as any filing costs, all to get a pale, vulnerable approximation of what opposite-sex couples get the minute they say “I do” in a marriage ceremony.

So, while this is a fantastic symbolic move, in the end it’s largely empty. Nothing can replace full marriage equality, and this order absolutely doesn’t fill that gap. While I applaud President Obama for setting the correct tone, ultimately it’s up to Democrats in Congress to ignore Republicans and repeal the infamous “Defense of Marriage Act” so that the federal government can start treating legally married same-sex couples equally with legally married opposite-sex married couples.

President Obama is severely limited in what he can do to bring equality to gay and lesbian Americans, but Democrats in Congress are not. What they lack is a spine and the will to use the power they have. President Obama has set the goal: Democrats must now act on it.


liminalD said...

Just curious... can you elaborate a little more for me (cos I'm slow) how Obama is 'severely limited in what he can do to bring equality to gay and lesbian Americans'? I'm not too familiar with the ins and outs of the political system over there.



Arthur Schenck said...

The American system is a mystery to Americans, so there's no reason people outside the US should understand it! I'll so a post specifically about that topic to make it clearer. I know that some of my American friends could use an explanation, too.