In an order of far reaching consequences, US President Barack Obama directed all hospitals that participate in Medicare and Medicaid to allow visitation rights for gay, lesbian and transgender couples.
Obama issued a presidential memorandum on Thursday in this regard, which was widely welcomed by the gay rights activists in the US.
"There are few moments in our lives that call for greater compassion and companionship than when a loved one is admitted to the hospital. In these hours of need and moments of pain and anxiety, all of us would hope to have a hand to hold, a shoulder on which to lean, a loved one to be there for us, as we would be there for them," Obama said in his memorandum.
Yet every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides - whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay, he said. Often, a widow or widower with no children is denied the support and comfort of a good friend.
"Also uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives, unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated," he said.
Obama said, the stressful and at times terrifying experience for patients is senselessly compounded by indignity and unfairness. "And it means that all too often, people are made to suffer or even to pass away alone, denied the comfort of companionship in their final moments while a loved one is left worrying and pacing down the hall," Obama wrote.
Though in the first year in office, he was often criticised by the GLBT community for not moving fast enough on issues critical to them, this year the Obama administration and Democrats on Capitol Hill have signaled some remarkable progress on issues like repealing "Don't ask, don't tell" and Employee Non-Discrimination Act.