Why Marriage Equality Matters. Again.

Why Marriage Equality Matters. Again. August 23, 2012

Here’s another example of why true marriage equality still matters and why domestic partnerships and civil unions simply aren’t good enough. A couple in Nevada was denied equal treatment when one of them was admitted due to a problem pregnancy, despite having a registered domestic partnership.

When Leon, 26, checked into Spring Valley Hospital on July 20 with complications in her pregnancy, she assumed that her partner Simonelli, 41, could make any necessary medical decisions if she suffered unforeseen problems.

But that’s not what happened, they said. An admissions officer told them the hospital policy required gay partners to secure power of attorney before making any medical decisions for each other.

They protested, even offering to go home and return with their domestic partnership document. But they said the admissions officer told them that didn’t matter – Simonelli would need a power of attorney. Considering Leon’s condition, Simonelli wasn’t in a position to argue or spend hours running to a law office. But the admission officer’s words left them devastated in a moment that they already were under extreme stress.

Leon ended up losing her baby.

“I am usually a big fighter. But I was so emotionally upset. It was a very bad day for us,” said Simonelli, a hotel parking valet and website designer. “We went there thinking we had the state’s backing, and then we were told we were wrong. It didn’t matter that we were registered domestic partners.

And here’s the hospital’s tone-deaf response:

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.

That law states: “Domestic partners have the same rights, protections and benefits, and are subject to the same responsibilities, obligations and duties under law, whether derived from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses.”

Which apparently means nothing.

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  • Didaktylos

    I hope that when the lawsuit is settled, the settlement terms will include not only that mouthpiece’s dismissal but that the hospital much actively employ its good offices to ensure that she never gets another job paying over minimum wage

  • Trebuchet

    Sounds like grounds for a lawsuit.

    Meanwhile, when my wife was seriously ill a couple of years ago nobody even asked for any evidence that we were actually married as I checked her in.

  • eric

    Hey Ed, OT but here’s one for your “Dumbass quote of the X” file. A Judge in Lubbock, Tx has said that he an his 300 deputies will stand up and fight when Obama rolls the UN tanks in.

    On the positive side, by their responses the town’s other local officials seem to have their heads screwed on straight.

  • I know bigotry overrides common sense, but for a PR person to call inquiring about ignorance of a law “bias” is a serious lapse of professional judgement.

    I guess her first calling is PR for Teh Lawd.

  • d cwilson

    I’ll bet that reporter had a pro-Obama bumper sticker on her forehead, too! The nerve of her, thinking the law was in any way relevant to legal rights and responsibilities of domestic partners.


    Must have been her first day as a PR flak.

  • Onamission5

    Yet another story to add to the growing pile of evidence that separate is not by any means equal.

    My spouse and I are not legally connected by any sort of paperwork, and yet, no one questions our right to make medical decisions for each other or our children, just by nature of our being opposite genders. Yet, a couple who is connected through legal paperwork and are by law due all the rights that go with, aren’t granted the legal rights they are due just by nature of being the same gender. Sometimes I really hate people.

    Are hospitals really allowed to make procedural rules which disregard state law?

  • marcus

    This is reprehensible, and your point is entirely correct. However, I wouldn’t put it past idiots like this to understand the requirements of marriage equality just as poorly.

  • lofgren

    The only people who are opposed to gay marriage but support civil unions are people who want to be able to continue telling themselves that their relationship is superior to gay relationships. No matter what the law says, these people will come up with elaborate rationalizations for why civil unions/domestic partners should not be allowed to do XYZ that married couples are, because they are “just a civil union and not a real marriage.”

    Even if you are not convinced that “separate but equal” is always wrong, it’s clear that in this case it just doesn’t work.

  • fastlane

    Are hospitals really allowed to make procedural rules which disregard state law?

    No. And if there’s a lawsuit, I suspect the hospital will try and settle as quietly as possible. If not, the hospital could, and probably would, lose whatever state funding they get for not following state rules. Pesky thing, those strings that come attached to government money.

  • alanb

    At thenewcivilrightsmovement.com there is mention that Rick Santorum served on the board of directors of Universal Health Services Inc., the owner of the hospital, and that this is not the first controversial incident for hospitals owned by them. It also states that the couple does not intend to sue.

  • Moggie

    Conservatives often use the term “biased” in a way which puzzles me. Frequently, it appears to mean “holds opinions which differ from my own”; in this case, it appears to mean “knows objective facts”. I wish I had a Conservative-to-English dictionary.

  • Trebuchet


    It also states that the couple does not intend to sue.

    That’s a damned shame, especially if it could be shown that the baby was lost because of the delay.

  • d cwilson

    Maggie @11:

    Conservatives don’t believe in “objective facts”.

  • Onamission5

    @Trebuchet #12:

    I can understand why they possibly wouldn’t want to though, at least right now. The grief process is overwhelming enough without legal hassles on top of it. I know some people can muster up the energy to do both but I don’t think I’d be one of them.

    My heart goes out to this couple, for both their sudden loss and their incredibly shitty treatment.

  • Michael Heath

    eric writes:

    A Judge in Lubbock, Tx has said that he an his 300 deputies will stand up and fight when Obama rolls the UN tanks in.

    The threat this conservative perceives he’s facing is actually so bad he’s also advocated, gasp!, raising taxes in order to increase their capability to fight off U.N. forces.

  • Gvlgeologist, FCD

    From the article referenced by alanb, as to why this couple does not plan to sue or even file a complaint:

    “They just hope their problem will lead to more awareness of the domestic partnership law and for fair treatment of gay people.”

    This unfortunately will never help the situation. Bigots like those that refused them their legal rights will never change unless forced to. Can you imagine the state of civil rights if African Americans had done this?

    I am not criticizing Ms. Leon and Ms. Simonelli for this – I can’t imagine their grief at this point. But I hope that they reconsider at some point in the future.