Nevada Hospital Discriminates Against Lesbian Couple

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Tuesday Aug 21, 2012

Officials from a hospital in Nevada discriminated against a lesbian couple because they did not recognize the women's domestic partnership, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Brittney Leon, 26, and Terri-Ann Simonelli, 41, checked into Spring Valley Hospital, located in Clark County, Las Vegas, Nev., due to complications with Leon's pregnancy. An admissions officer told Simonelli that the hospital's policy states that she would have to secure power of attorney in order to make any decisions for Leon in case something went wrong, despite being in a domestic partnership.

The couple told the hospital officials that they would show them their domestic partnership document and that they had the same legal rights as a heterosexual couple but the admissions officer insisted it did not matter.

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," Simonelli said. "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. It should matter."

A domestic partnership in Nevada grants same-sex couples all the same right as heterosexual married couples. The 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." One difference, however, is that employers do not have to provide health care benefits to same-sex couples.

A public relations representative at Spring Valley told the Review-Journal in a phone interview that the hospital's policy requires same-sex couples to have power of attorney in order to make medical decisions together. When the reporter for the publication asked if she was aware of the state's domestic partnership law, "she accused the reporter of bias and hung up the telephone."

The couple said they would not file a complaint or a lawsuit against the hospital, however. They said their mission is to bring more awareness about Nevada's domestic partnership law and equality for the LGBT community. They also told the publication that besides the incident, Spring Valley's employees treated them excellently and Leon's doctor frequently updated Simonelli when she was in surgery.

A liberal website, the New Civil Rights Movement, has dug up evidence that the hospital's parent company has close ties to Rick Santorum. From 2007 to 2011, the controversial former Pennsylvania senator served on the board of directors of Universal Health Services.

The website brought up "dozens of allegations" of abuse cases. In one facility UHS runs in Virginia for boys with mental-health issues, a teacher alleged that staff members tried an impromptu exorcism on a boy with severe autism.

"We understand there are people out there who are not going to welcome us with open arms," Simonelli said. "That it fine, but when it comes to a business, like a hospital, treat us fairly. When you step into a hospital, you are in a very vulnerable state."

Despite this incident, the Human Rights Campaign claims that the health care industry is steadily making improvements when it comes to LGBT people. The organization, however, says "much work remains to be done to end discrimination in America's healthcare system, the once invisible issue of LGBT health care equity is gaining national prominence, with healthcare facilities committing themselves to offering unbiased care."

The report rated 407 facilities and over 90 percent of participants have specific policies that prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual patients and over three-quarters protect transgender patients from discrimination, EDGEreported.

Despite the positive report, some hospitals still discriminate against same-sex couples. One of the highest-profile cases occurred in Miami, Fla., a few years ago when hospital officials refused to let Janice Langbehn visit her partner of 18 years while she was dying.

A similar occurred in December 2011, when doctors from a psychiatric hospital denied Val Burke access to her partner who was in the facility's residential unit.


  • klownpoet, 2012-08-22 04:51:28

    why is this a gay issue? I am gay and everytime I have been to a dr or hospital I had to sign a paper to even allow my brother,mother etc to be talked to. One seperate for each one too because of privacy laws. I also had a lawyer give my mother and brother a type of power of attorny where if i was there and able i could sign papers if not either of them could. worked fine

  • , 2012-08-22 11:34:55

    The deal is that a spouse has an automatic power of attorney, where as LGBT have to fight for it. I’m in a registered Domestic Partnership and that should as the law states, have all the same rights as spouses. Klownpoet, Your mother and your brother are a different case. Siblings only have POA if you grant that and parents only have POA if your basically deceased... Very different between your situation and theirs

  • klownpoet, 2012-08-22 22:34:50

    i am truly at a loss here. I was posing this as a real question. also sometimes i thing i have a little trouble with how i say things and typing and all(i was injured then because of tremors being so bad underwent dep brain stimulation)(it has improved my life drammatically) being gay i think it is a load of crap that we don’t have gay marriage with all the rights .....period...but i didn’t all the way understand why if we can’t get that why the poa wouldn’t work. i also didn’t know that it was automatic to married couples... i am sure that it is different circumstances and even different states but i am in wv and was told that even married couples were not garrented (spelled that) getting tired so patience please and that doesn’t mean what i was told was true andd you somewhere it was meantioned that theey wouldn’t honor it "you are right my mother and brother both had to carry the papers on them and make them honor the kind i had" would love to discuss this sometime i know this is getting to long but i had two special relationships both died and i had no rights .....hope this gets posted thanks forr being understanding

  • , 2012-08-22 22:46:18

    That makes sense. I’m definitely not trying to come off rude. Unfortunately the laws are different.... I live in Nevada, and what the hospital did with this couple is against the laws of domestic partnership. I’m sorry for your loss. I know I’d go nuts if something were to happen to my partner and I had no rights.

  • klownpoet, 2012-08-22 22:59:32

    i almost did go nuts. I still can’t believe we have to have this discussion about something that to me should be a civil rights issue and that is what i was concerned about that i didn’t make my self understood one hospital in pittsburgh actually was not giving me the medication on time and demanded that my brothe give him what i carried before the operation i had and he refused and stayed there and gave it to me and the were going to have him arrested ,,, then the whole hospital adminstratiion got involved needless to say that changed ...thank god for a brother like that....

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