Call me cynical. While most of my queer friends are up and celebrating the new hospital visitation rules that went into effect last week, I have a slightly different perspective. Of course, I’m not exactly mourning the fact that this increases the chances that queer families will be able to have access to each other in emergencies, or that this act also protects other individuals who would like non-family visitors. But for some reason, I just don’t trust Obama to be the fierce advocate that he told us he’d be. Most of the promises that Obama made (well, the ones he made to the People, anyway) aren’t worth dick. Maybe that’s because he was so busy talking out of both sides of his mouth.
At any rate, I’m not a lawyer. I don’t know where the actual holes may or may not lie in this thing. But I do know that there’s a pattern with these things. Someone makes a brave move (or in most cases a largely symbolic show) supporting the LGB community (usually the trans community doesn’t even get these sad scraps). We turn up the Sister Sledge and throw a party. Mere days or weeks later, the Religious Right mounts a legal challenge, or the thing gets put up for a vote (because civil rights issues should always be approached through referenda), and it goes down in flames as we remember what it means to be an oppressed minority: other people get to decide what rights they think you should have. But even as we get screwed by the ineptitude of the Dems to make any of this stick, we’re expected to laud them for their efforts. As though they didn’t already owe us that, as though they were actually willing to expend any political capital on Queer issues anyway, while they rake in our donations with both fists.
So while my more forgetful Family celebrates and lauds Obama for his bravery, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Because I’ve got questions about this thing’s strength and staying power. No answers though, so if anyone who is legally inclined wants to volunteer some I’d be glad to have them.
A) Why a Presidential Memorandum? Why not an Executive Order? What’s the difference? My google-fu tells me that EOs can be overridden by later Presidents, by the Congress, or through the courts. How powerful do Presidential Directives end up being, then? As opposed to, say, the actual legislation that could have been pushed through with a super-majority?
B) What happens when this inevitably gets challenged for religious exemptions? Given that 1 in 6 American hospital patients is seen at a Catholic Hospital (most of which are still refusing to administer Emergency Contraception to rape victims), what will it mean if these hospitals decide they don’t like this ruling?
C) Technically, this applies to all hospitals that provide services for people on Medicaid/Medicare. I don’t understand the complex decision-making involved in running a hospital. What I do know is that apparently doctors are opting out of medicare already. This is all going to be up in the air, given the status of the new health insurance laws, but what happens if medicare/medicaid becomes too burdensome (including insisting upon equal rights for all of their patients) and entire hospitals opt out? Is that even possible? I don’t know if this will happen, but given that any pharmacist in the country can have a say in what I do with my vagina, I’m pretty sure that “God is in the Mix” on this subject as well.
D) Of course, it only becomes burdensome if there’s any enforcement of this whatsoever. What is the actual likelihood of this being monitored and enforced? What is the actual recourse available to patients who find that this isn’t happening the way it’s supposed to?
E) How does this work exactly? Because it sounds like it says that if you have an advance directive or healthcare proxy or power of attorney established in advance, now they have to actually care instead of disregarding legally binding documents. Wow, what a bold move. It also appears to establish that a patient can designate people as allowed visitors upon admission. Which is great, except that you pretty much have to be conscious and coherent in order to be able to do that. Now, I have never been hospitalized in any hospital that would deny me the visitors I chose while I was conscious and largely functional (and I’ve spent a bunch of time in the hospital), but then, I live in Seattle.
So, yes, I am wondering about what the precise limitations are. If it seems like I need a civics lesson, I probably do. I’m not from around these parts, and I’m still working my way through Congress for Dummies. What I am pretty certain of is that the man who is about to start fundraising needs the queer community behind him. Of course, if he actually cared about gay rights he could have done anything at all about gay marriage, which would actually enshrine some legal rights. But no, instead it’s time to toss us a scrap or two after sitting with his thumb up his ass for two years with a Dem majority. This “fierce advocate” who felt the need to appease homophobes on the campaign trail , again at his inauguration, and again and again while in office, is unsurprisingly losing steam among gay voters and donors. So this particular crumb we’re being thrown can only be one thing: a sign that we’re about to be screwed again.