BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
"The hospital took the position that we thought was pretty extreme -- that it has no duty, no legal obligation, to allow visitors [of any sort] in the hospital. The court agreed," said Beth Littrell, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal, a national gay-rights group representing Janice Langbehn, whose partner of 17 years died at Jackson in 2007.
Langbehn's partner, Lisa Pond, suffered a fatal brain aneurysm on Feb. 18, 2007, shortly before they were to sail with their three children on a Caribbean cruise for gay families.
At Jackson, Langbehn said, a social worker would not let her visit Pond because Florida is "an anti-gay state." Pond, 39, died the next day.
From the beginning, Jackson said Langbehn was not discriminated against and defended social worker Garnett Frederick, who denied making the comment.
Langbehn, with the help of Lambda Legal, sued the hospital. The case, which received publicity around the country, was thrown out Tuesday.
"We're obviously devastated and disappointed in this decision," Littrell said. "It highlights how vulnerable same-sex couples and their families are."
The court dismissed the case without deciding whether Langbehn had been discriminated against, Littrell said.
Jackson on Tuesday again denied that gay patients and their families are treated differently.
"We have always believed and known that the staff at Jackson treats everyone equally, and that their main concern is the well-being of the patients in their care," Jackson spokeswoman Jennifer Piedra said in a news release. "At Jackson Health System, we believe in a culture of inclusion. For more than 90 years, the institution has taken great pride in serving everyone who enters its doors, regardless of race, creed, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. We also employ a very diverse workforce, one that mirrors the community we serve."
Added Piedra: "Jackson will continue to work with the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community to ensure that everyone knows they are welcome at all of our facilities, where they will receive the highest quality of medical care."
Janice Langbehn photo by The Olympian