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Fresno Hospital Takes Steps to End Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples

Paul Cates,
LGBT Project
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December 16, 2009

Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, California, has agreed to make policy changes and conduct staff trainings to ensure that the rights of its LGBT patients and family members are properly respected. The changes are being made in response to a demand letter by American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Lesbian Rights on behalf of a lesbian who was barred from visiting her partner and giving advice about her treatment at the hospital.

The incident took place while the couple was in Fresno to attend the Meet in the Middle for Marriage Equality March on May 30, 2009. Kristin Orbin was rushed to the emergency room after suffering from an epileptic seizure at the march. She and her partner of four years, Teresa Rowe, had traveled from the Bay Area to attend the march. Although Rowe, who grew up in nearby Clovis, California, was well aware of Orbin’s medical history and how she responded to various medications, hospital staff refused to allow her to speak with the doctors treating Orbin or to visit with her. As a result, Orbin was given the drug Ativan that she didn’t need and which caused her unnecessary pain. After the couple had been separated for several hours, Orbin finally saw her doctor. She complained to him, and Rowe was eventually allowed to be with her.

According to a letter Community Medical Centers sent to the ACLU and NCLR announcing the policy change and training, the hospital is in the early stages of reviewing all its policies dealing with LGBT patients and foresees further changes in addition to the promised training and policy changes. It has also agreed to keep the ACLU and NCLR apprised of its progress.

The ACLU is pleased that the hospital is taking these important steps to ensure fair treatment for its lesbian and gay patients. But as long as same-sex couples are denied the ability to marry and the legal protections and universal recognition that comes automatically with it, this kind of discrimination will likely continue.

A copy of the demand letter and its response is available here.

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