Friday, April 16, 2010

One Step Closer

Discrimination. What is the first thing that pops into your head when you hear that word? For most of you, it is probably the injustices faced by African Americans and other minorities in the United States during the pre-civil rights era.

But we are forgetting one major group of individuals that still suffer those injustices: the gay community.

Just as minorities were not allowed to attend the same schools, drink from the same water fountain, ride the same bus, or walk on the same side of the street as their white counterparts, gays have been denied access to life, liberty, and their pursuit of happiness.

In today’s “modern” era, there are still numerous laws and bans restricting the freedoms of the gay community: whether it be serving in the military, adopting children, getting married, providing for their families, or providing the love and support to each other that many of us take for granted, gays are constantly being discriminated against.

Specifically, hospitals often bar visitors who are not related to an incapacitated patient by blood or marriage. The problem is, however, that society has barred gays from getting married. Therefore, when a gay person is stuck in the hospital, instead of helping them recover from their sickness, society denies them the kindness and caring of a loved one at their sides.

This is where true leadership is needed. Yesterday, President Obama signed an executive order forcing most hospitals in the country to grant the same visitation rights to gay and lesbian partners that they do to married heterosexual couples. “Hospitals should not be able to deny visitation privileges on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” Obama said.

In a country that values its individual freedoms so highly, why not respect the patients’ choices about who may make critical health-care decisions for them? Why not allow them to spend time with their partners, just like a married couple gets to enjoy at their stay in a hospital?

Many conservatives criticize this sentiment, claiming it “undermines the definition of marriage.” But in reality, continuing a policy of discrimination undermines the definition of freedom and equality. It undermines the definition of being an American.

After all, it's not a gay right to hold someone's hand when they die. It’s a human right.

After Obama's executive order, America is one step closer at understanding this.

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