President Barack Obama has issued a directive that will make it easier for gay hospital patients to receive visitors.
"Gay and lesbian Americans are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives," the president said in a statement Thursday.
The president's directive will force Medicare and Medicaid hospitals to allow patients to designate their visitors.
Obama said the new rules should "guarantee that all patients' advance directives, such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies, are respected," and that patients' designees be able to "make informed decisions regarding patients' care."
It's not uncommon for hospitals to deny visitation to non-family members. Gay rights activists have cited the practice as reason for why they should be granted the right to marry.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., expressed her approval of the president's decision.
"This is a critical step in ending discrimination against LGBT families and ensuring that, in the event of a hospital stay, all Americans have the right to see their loved ones," Pelosi said.