Christians OK with Gay Hospital Visitation Rights

Some Christian leaders have expressed support for President Obama's order to extend hospital visitation and health care decision rights of same-sex couples.

The leaders agree with the president that patients, whatever their sexual orientation, need their love ones by their sides and have a right to choose who they want to make medical decisions on their behalf.

Focus on the Family Senior Vice President Tom Minnery said in a statement Friday that the Christian pro-family group supports the principle in Obama's Presidential Memorandum regarding hospital visitation.

Likewise, several evangelical leaders voiced support for ensuring gays and lesbians access to their loved ones during times of emergency and distress.

"To have access to loved ones in all conditions of life is something evangelicals see as compassionate and just," said Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.

Pastor Joel Hunter of Northland, A Church Distributed in Orlando, said the directive brings "much-needed humanity" to the way patients are treated.

"As a pastor, I have witnessed the deep and heart-felt needs people experience, particularly in times of grave illness," said Hunter. "In these moments, every person deserves the strength and support that being surrounded by loved ones brings."

In a Presidential Memorandum, President Obama on Thursday directed the Department of Health and Human Services to work to ensure the rights of patients to designate visitors and decision makers. The memorandum highlighted that current hospital visitation policies have "uniquely affected" gay and lesbian Americans who are often barred from their partner.

Hospital policies generally allow only visitors related by blood or marriage to visit a seriously injured or ill patient.

While Christian groups say they do not have a problem with extending visitation rights to same-sex couples, some question President Obama's agenda.

FOTF said it wonders why patient-sensitive hospital policies required a Presidential Memorandum. The conservative pro-family group is concerned that the directive, though innocuous itself, is part of a larger effort to undermine marriage and the Defense of Marriage Act.

"Although it seems the White House released this Presidential Memorandum to, at least in part, promote a political agenda, the fact remains the document demonstrates that marriage does not have to be redefined in order for people to see their loved ones in the hospital," said Minnery.

Family Research Council also said that while it does not object to the visitation rights it believes the directive is part of the president's broader effort to appease his gay constituency and undermine the institution of marriage.

Besides gays and lesbians, the new rule would also apply to widows and widowers as well as members of religious orders.

The new policy will affect hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding, which is nearly all the medical institutions in the country.

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