Cantwell Applauds Lacey Resident’s Presidential Citizens Medal for LGBT Rights Advocacy

Janice Langbehn helped establish hospital ‘fair visitation’ rights for same-sex couples

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded Janice Langbehn of Lacey, WA for being awarded the 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal, America’s second-highest civilian honor. Cantwell met with Langbehn today to congratulate her and thank her for her tireless work and considerable contributions to achieving equal rights for the LGBT community.

In 2008, Lengbehn challenged a hospital decision to keep her from visiting her dying partner of 18 years in a Miami hospital after she unexpectedly fell ill during a family vacation. Lengbehn’s years-long struggle, including a filing of a lawsuit with Lambda Legal to change hospital visitation rules after her partner’s death, raised awareness about the injustice experienced by many same-sex couples of being prevented from visiting their partners in hospitals across the nation. This ultimately helped to bring about the implementation of the “fair visitation rule,” which went into effect on January 18, 2011. The rule allows hospital visitations for same-sex couples comparable to those of married and opposite sex couples at any hospitals receiving federal Medicare or Medicaid funds, which will apply to a large number of hospitals in the U.S.

“I was pleased to meet with Janice Langbehn today and congratulate her for receiving the second-highest civilian honor this nation has to offer,” Cantwell said. “This is a tremendous accomplishment and one that Janice truly deserves for her work advancing equal rights for all. Janice took a tragic injustice she suffered and transformed it into something for the greater good. For years she fought to right a wrong that had been done to her, her partner and to countless other same-sex couples across this nation.

“Her tireless efforts shone a spotlight on the plight of gay and lesbian couples denied hospital visitation rights,” Cantwell continued. “I commend Janice Langbehn for her tremendous contribution to affording all Americans the equal rights they deserve, and for making our hospitals more tolerant and peaceful places. Together, with the help of advocates like Janice, we can achieve equal policies that protect the rights of all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, national origin, age, or disability.”