This is why elections matter:

President Obama mandated Thursday that nearly all hospitals extend visitation rights to the partners of gay men and lesbians and respect patients’ choices about who may make critical health-care decisions for them, perhaps the most significant step so far in his efforts to expand the rights of gay Americans.

[…]

Hospitals often bar visitors who are not related to an incapacitated patient by blood or marriage, and gay rights activists say many do not respect same-sex couples’ efforts to designate a partner to make medical decisions for them if they are seriously ill or injured.

“Discrimination touches every facet of the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, including at times of crisis and illness, when we need our loved ones with us more than ever,” Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement praising the president’s decision.

This negates about one third of the paperwork requirements AT&T used to try to pry The Boyf off of my benefits when I worked there. I am extremely happy about this. Neither of us has any reason to think we’re ever going to end up in a hospital any time soon but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it, that we never know when we’re going to need this sort of support and contact?

One might ask where the President got the idea – other than from basic human decency, I mean – and one might be surprised:

Yesterday, President Obama ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that same-sex partners and others are able to visit their loved ones in hospitals across the country. The memo quotes the hospital visitation provision of the North Carolina Hospital Patients’ Bill of Rights which Equality NC proposed and got adopted by the state in 2008.

“We are thrilled to see that Equality NC’s work at the state level has provided a model which the President is now taking nationwide to ensure that hospital patients get the care and companionship they deserve,” said Ian Palmquist, Executive Director.

The Presidential Memorandum signed yesterday states:

Many States have taken steps to try to put an end to these problems. North Carolina recently amended its Patients’ Bill of Rights to give each patient “the right to designate visitors who shall receive the same visitation privileges as the patient’s immediate family members, regardless of whether the visitors are legally related to the patient” — a right that applies in every hospital in the State.

So, thank you, EqualityNC. I’m not involved with them beyond having made a few small donations here and there, but this is completely freaking awesome.