By now we all know what Obama said about us in his acceptance speech, but here it is in total:
I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in a hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.
Now I can't criticize the "live lives free of discrimination" part...amen to that. But as for hospital visitation, don't all hospital patients deserve visits from the people they love?? Don't all gay people deserve this...and isn't marriage a completely different issue?? By putting these two concepts in the same sentence, Obama has fallen into the rhetorical morass created by the marriage equality movement.
The rhetoric goes roughly like this...A lesbian is denied the ability to see her hospitalized partner; spouses are allowed to visit each other in the hospital; therefore lesbian (and gay) couples must be allowed to marry so they can visit each other in the hospital. So then Obama steps into this conversation, saying that we can't agree on marriage but we can agree that couples who can't marry should still be able to visit each other in the hospital.
But try this. Hospital accreditation standards include those who play a significant role in a patient's life, even if not legally related, within the definition of family. Neither gay nor straight couples should have to marry to visit each other in the hospital. Gay people without partners need assurance that those they love and consider family will be allowed to visit them in the hospital. Consider that LGBT people may be more likely than heterosexuals to move away from unsupportive families of origin and/or to more accepting cities or towns.
If we make any discussion of hospital visitation policies about same-sex couples, we are going to miss the vast numbers of unpartnered LGBT people who don't want their estranged parents given hospital access while their closest friends are kept out or who don't want to be left all alone because their families of origin live at a great distance and their families are choice are excluded.
In 2007, Virginia passed a law that requires hospitals to allow patients to choose their visitors. Gay and straight; coupled and not. That's the law Obama should support...along with a federal advance health care directive registry. He should also support LGBT equality..including in access to marriage...but not in the same sentence.