Lest the battle lines and magnitude be not clearly drawn

lpfamily[Image at right: the Langbehn-Pond family, from Janice Langbehn’s Twitter page. Lisa at left, Janice at right.]

I had a Banned Books Week / LGBT families in children’s lit post all queued up and ready for its final powdering, but have to set it aside after reading on Tuesday evening that the Langbehn v. Jackson Memorial Hospital case was dismissed yesterday by its Florida judge.

Janice Langbehn, for those who can’t place where you heard her name (if not from here, in February and August of last year), is the woman whose partner of 18 years, Lisa Pond, suffered an aneurism just as they were about to embark on an R Family vacation cruise with their three children. They were in Miami. The hospital barred all of Lisa’s family from seeing her, because, in the words of the hospital social worker, they were in “an anti-gay state.” (Family? What family?)  Janice tells the whole story here, on the blog she started for their family.

The more you read about their life together — the 25 children they fostered over the years, the four they adopted, Lisa’s Girl Scout troop — and the more you read about the lengths Janice went to to try to gain access to Lisa for herself and their children — the more vivid and the more unthinkable their inhumane treatment becomes.  Lambda Legal argued her case against the hospital; their page on the case is here.  Janice posted the judge’s motion to dismiss the case here. I — and any other LD readers as ignorant in the minutia of the law as I — welcome anyone’s armchair analysis / translation of its import.  Lambda and the family have until October 16 to take the next step, whatever that may be.

Two more things:

(1) Look at Lambda Legal’s Tools for Protecting Your Health Care Wishes, but with this caveat: Janice and Lisa had medical power of attorney for one another, and Janice had them faxed to the hospital in one of her many attempts to do everything possible to have their family status recognized by the hospital staff.  It was the bigotry and inhumanity of the hospital staff that kept them apart, when other family members, including small children, were welcomed to visit other patients in same critical care area there. (Nolo Press explains more about Powers of Attorney for Health Care here.) And,

(2) the Langbehn-Pond family lives in Washington state. Right now people in Washington are fighting tooth and nail to preserve their strong domestic partnership law. Referendum 71 needs to pass for it to stay on the books, and for all Washington families to be treated fairly, especially in times of crisis, and  for all families to be provided the same protections under the law. So if you haven’t done what you can to support their battle there, please do. For the Langbehn-Pond family, if for no one else.

A visual to leave you with: NGLTF keeps and regularly updates a map of all the states with laws on the books that, in one way or another, throw barriers between us and safe, proper, ethical, full legal recognition.  And sometimes throw barriers between us and our very own families. A sobering note: only the clear white states have no prohibitions on same-sex partnerships.

Click on the image to see it at its full-page resolution:

NGLTF.statelawsagainst.6.09

9 thoughts on “Lest the battle lines and magnitude be not clearly drawn”

    • And really we couldn’t get a more stark reminder of the fact that this cruelty — the legal sanction for it — is the RULE, not the exception in this nation. Their kids sat in that waiting room, for eight hours, knowing their mother was dying, watching other families go in and out visiting their loved ones? Could have been languishing in all but about a dozen states of this nation.

      Take home lesson? All the Advanced Health Care directives (another recent CA case here) and Registered Domestic Partnerships and even pleas from 9 year old girls from their hospital beds (sounds extreme? nope: happened in California, recently) cannot and will not erode the homophobia of individuals who KNOW there is a legally-sanctioned, “separate” status to our families. The bipartisan New Jersey commission that studied this confirmed: separate actually ENSURES there will be no equal. Their words:

      This commission finds that the separate categorization established by the Civil Union Act invites and encourages unequal treatment of same-sex couples and their children.

      Because when it comes down to a moment of crisis, it is not what’s on the books somewhere in the statehouse that makes the difference, but what’s in the heart of the individual.

      We have our work cut out for us.

  1. I am posting wholesale Janice Langbehn’s post from this morning on her family’s blog:

    I have received email after email overnight from people I don’t even know wanting to know what they could do.

    First – I still am awaiting an apology from Garnett Frederick the phD social worker who to said to me “anti-gay, city and state” he denies saying it but God, he and I know he said that to me – as well as many, many close friends and families – knows he said it because it was the first words out of my mouth when I reached them by phone. As far as I know he has never been sanctioned or disciplined for this hateful comments. He still works as a medical Social Worker at Jackson Memorial Hospital – Ryder Trauma Center: the information is on their web page :

    Patient Relations
    If you or a friend/family member are a current or former patient of Jackson Health System and have questions or comments concerning the care received or the overall experience at a Jackson facility, please contact Patient Relations at 305-585-7341. website for Jackson Memorial is: http://www.jhsmiami.org/

    Be forwarded [typo: forewarned?] that I filed an official complaint on their website about 2.5 weeks after lisa’s death – after her two funerals – and it was lost – finaly found – 4 months later and was NEVER addressed. So you may need to be persistant.

    Then there is the governing body for Social Workers – Nat. Assoc. Social Workers (NASW) – their Ethics and Professional Standards: http://www.socialworkers.org/nasw/ethics/default.asp

    And finally the Jt. Commission that accredites Hospitals and like facilities. http://www.jointcommission.org/
    And finally – there is the Florida Governor and Legislature – that there are no laws to protect family in their most vulnerable time, is unconscionable. Here is the site for Govenor Christ’s site: http://www.flgov.com/

    For me I need to still sit with this setback and help the children understand who continue to ask question and are as shell-shocked as I am. Thank you all for your support – my only hope continues to be that this doesn’t happen to another family – regardless of how you define yourselves.

  2. Oh my. My heart and my stomach hurt so much. This family is within 100 miles of me and my family. The hatred they experienced is unimaginable and the fact that they are so close to me seems to just make it more real in my mind. How can people turn a blind eye to this?

    I am volunteering for Referendum 71. I am signing up today. I have never heard about this until I read it on your blog. News like this is not widespread to Washingtonians unless they live in the Seattle area. I have a big mouth and maybe I use it for some good for a change. God knows we need a change.

    Thank you for posting this.

  3. Thanks for posting that story–I linked to you on my blog. The whole thing makes my stomach drop to think of, and as you said, we have our work cut out for us. I’m glad we can form pockets of connections, and share stories, so that work can continue.

  4. Thank you for posting phone numbers and websites so we can do something! Every other social worker I know is a lesbian! Surely the NASW can respond to this.

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