Nevada Same-Sex Couple Denied Hospital Visitation Despite Domestic Partnership

Think Progress | Zack Ford | 08/20/2012

Brittney Leon and Terri-Ann Simonelli with their domestic partnership certificate (via the Las Vegas Review-Journal).

A same-sex couple in Nevada is raising awareness about the inequality couples experience without marriage after Spring Valley Hospital refused to recognize their relationship. Brittney Leon and Terri-Ann Simonelli have a domestic partnership, which under Nevada state law grants couples all the same rights as married couples. When Leon checked into the hospital last month because of complications in her pregnancy, the admissions officer told Simonelli she would have to secure power of attorney to be with her partner.

Leon ended up losing her baby, and Simonelli had to rely on the fact that the doctor knew the couple to get updates, still spending long stretches of time without updates on her partner’s condition and the fate of her family. This was despite the fact that the hospital had no hesitations about accepting Leon’s insurance, which is provided through Simonelli’s job. The Las Vegas Review-Journal attempted to get a comment from the hospital about the incident:

A woman who identified herself as public relations representative at Spring Valley Hospital told a Review-Journal reporter in a phone interview that the hospital policy requires gay couples have power of attorney in order to make medical decisions for each other .

When asked if she was aware of Nevada’s domestic partnership law, she accused the reporter of bias and hung up the telephone.

Over two years ago, President Obama ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a rule that would prevent hospitals from denying visitation privileges to the partners of gays and lesbians. It’s unclear whether the power-of-attorney requirement violates that memorandum — though it obviously discriminates against same-sex couples — or whether it is indicative of how little authority the new rule has.

Leon and Simonelli have decided not to file a complaint, but their story is an important reminder of how same-sex couples are treated as second-class citizens. Even though they hypothetically have all of the same rights under the state’s domestic partnership law, they were still treated in an incredibly crass way in a time of emergency and heightened emotional stress.

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