Sarah Bray and Jennifer Clemmer have only been since May but have known each other for 13 years; they had plans to marry in Iowa next month, and Bray was set to adopt Clemmer's son, but that may have to wait.
Last week Jennifer Clemmer was discovered lying face down on a bathroom floor, foaming at the mouth. Bray says Jennifer overdosed on several medications in what she believes is a suicide attempt. Clemmer was taken to St. Francis Hospital, where she worked, and Sarah and their sons were able to visit her for about an hour. During that time she called Jennifer’s mother to tell her what had happened; when the mother arrived she ordered Sarah Bray and her sons out of the room.
In the days since, Bray hasn’t been allowed to see Jennifer, and says the hospital sided with the mother’s wishes to keep her away. Bray said the other woman does not support her daughter’s lesbian relationship and, when reached at the hospital by a local paper for comment, Clemmer's mother said, “We’re not interested,” and hung up.
But Sarah Bray isn’t giving up.
“She’s playing with the wrong person, because I know that I have rights, and I’m going to fight for those rights no matter what.”—Sarah Bray
And she’s gotten several groups involved in her fight to simply visit her partner in the hospital. Yes, in 2013, even though it’s illegal, some gay men and women have to get advocacy groups and lawyers involved just to visit their loved one in the hospital.
Bray contacted Get Equal Indiana, who call the situation “a clear violation of LGBT hospital visitation rights” because, in 2010, President Obama signed a memorandum that extends hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners at hospitals that accept Medicare and Medicaid — even in states like Indiana that don’t recognize same-sex partnerships. It also extends patient care decisions to same-sex partners if they have been designated as the next-of-kin representative.
But, since Bray’s partner never designated her as a next-of-kin representative, the hospital does that, and they made the choice that the woman’s mother is in charge. However, that next-of-kin representative needs to make a strong argument to ban someone from visiting a patient, such as concerns over disruption or harm to the patient and, it seems, that this woman, this mother, has no valid reason other than she doesn’t want her daughter in a same-sex relationship.
Sarah Bray doesn’t want to make any decisions about her partner’s treatment or care; she simply wants to be in the room.
Joe Stuteville, a hospital spokesman, acknowledged that the hospital usually gives the upper hand to a patient’s next-of-kin representative to determine who can or can’t visit: “Without having the specifics on this case, I can only say we do not discriminate. We understand end-of-life issues.”
How sad, though, that this woman, who may have attempted suicide, and may die—the repercussions of her overdose are not known, and it’s unclear if she’ll survive—will not be allowed one visit from her partner, the woman she said she wanted to marry, because she has a narrow-minded mother.
I hope Bray gets lawyers involved and I hope a lawsuit is filed against the hospital for violating the law. As I said, Bray isn’t asking to make life decisions, or medical decisions for Jennifer, she just wants to be able to see her. How can that be wrong?
And, yes, this is yet another reason we need same-sex marriage to be federally recognized, because if we leave things up to the states, little pockets of bigotry and hatred like this hospital in Indiana will still exist.