If the name Janice Langbehn sounds familiar, it's because she made headlines in Miami in 2007 when a social worker at Jackson Memorial Hospital wouldn't allow Ms. Langbehn to visit her dying partner, Lisa Ponds, because Florida is ``an anti-gay state.''
The lesbian couple from Washington state were about to embark on a Caribbean cruise with their children when Ms. Ponds suffered a brain aneurysm and was rushed to Jackson's emergency room.
Unlike married spouses in the same situation, Ms. Langbehn was forced to pace the lobby for hours rather than visit her long-time partner. She was finally allowed to see Ms. Ponds in the company of a priest performing last rites.
The outrage over this tragic denial of a couple's basic rights made Jackson the poster child of callous hospital bureaucracies and sparked a national movement for gay-patient rights. Ms. Langbehn unsuccessfully sued Jackson and joined the national campaign to fight for ``the human right to decide who should be with you in sickness and in death,'' as she wrote in a June 16, 2010, Other Views column.
On Jan. 18, her cause won as new federal rules kicked in banning any restrictions on visitation based on sexual orientation in hospitals across the country. The rules apply to all hospitals receiving federal funds under Medicare and Medicaid. According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, the rules apply to more than 90 percent of the nation's hospitals.
To read the complete editorial, visit www.miamiherald.com.