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Jackson Memorial Hospital nurses personally apologize to lesbian whose partner died there

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, [email protected]

Janice Langbehn town hall 022XX

Several Jackson Memorial Hospital nurses personally apologized to Janice Langbehn, a Washington state lesbian who said a Jackson social worker wouldn't allow her to be with her dying partner in 2007.

"We certainly are sorry for the pain and suffering she felt," said Martha Baker, a registered nurse and president of SEIU local 1991, the union representing about 5,000 doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals at Jackson.

"I apologize," said registered nurse Norberto Molina, chairman of the union's gay Lavender Caucus. "I can't imagine what you went through."

Janice Langbehn town hall 021

Above,  Norberto Molina, Jim Nicholson, Diane Poirier and Martha Baker.

The apologies came at a town hall-style meeting Thursday night at Unity on the Bay church, in which Langbehn returned to Miami as a speaker. Baker, Molina and two other Jackson nurses, Jim Nicholson and Diane Poirier, along with 60 other people, attended the meeting.

Langbehn, whose lawsuit against Jackson was dismissed in September by a federal court in Miami, gracefully welcomed the nurses’ personal gesture. But she still want the hospital to apologize formally.

"The management has to do it," Langbehn said.

langbehn She tearfully told the audience of her final moments with longtime partner Lisa Pond, who 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 dismissed without a decision whether Jackson discriminated against Langbehn because she is gay. The court determined Jackson had no legal obligation to allow anyone to visit a patient.

“It’s my duty to speak out, that this should never happen to another family of ours,” said Langbehn, seated next to her attorney, Beth Littrell of Lambda Legal in Atlanta, Stratton Pollitzer of Equality Florida and Miami attorney Elizabeth Schwartz, who specializes in nontraditional-family issues. C.J. Ortuño, executive director of SAVE Dade, moderated.

Janice Langbehn town hall 001

Above, Janice Langbehn, Beth Littrell, Stratton Pollitzer and Elizabeth Schwartz.

All along, Jackson has denied that the hospital discriminated against Langbehn.

"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 after the case was dismissed in September.

"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 town hall 017 Ortuño, pictured right, told the audience that, indeed, Jackson has met with a group of South Florida gay activists to make sure gay people’s rights at the hospital are upheld.

Activists say they hope to use the Langbehn-Pond case as an example of why laws are needed to protect gay families.

“These stories, these tragedies can change the minds of lawmakers,’’ Pollitzer said.

Schwartz said that until laws are passed protecting gay families, it is imperative that they protect themselves.

“The No. 1 thing, the most important thing, is to have a will,” Schwartz said.

Baker, a lesbian who has worked at Jackson for nearly a quarter-century, said she is heartbroken that the hospital has been accused of being antigay.

“It’s a shame that the public hospital that delivers care [here] is the focus of her pain,” said Baker, also a Lavender Caucus member. “Is Jackson homophobic? Oh, no. I’d say 30 percent of our staff is gay or lesbian. A lot of us work here because it is considered a safe space here in Miami-Dade County.”

Here are additional photos of Thursday’s gay community forum, Take the Power: Protecting Ourselves and Our Loved Ones.” All photos by STEVE ROTHAUS / Miami Herald Staff.


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"...The court determined Jackson had no legal obligation to allow anyone to visit a patient..."— And do y'all think that the court would've applied the same rule, say for example, to the father of a dying mother, or a wife and her dying husband? ...sure not!
How much you wanna bet that nothing of this sort would be in discussion had the protagonists of this unfortunate incident been a heterosexual couple? A verbal apology?...whatta crock! If Jackson is so GLBT friendly then why are they defending and supporting this one vile social worker's actions? And is there any particular reason why we don't get to see a photo of this one vile Garnett Frederick...??? I'm sure there is...

This sex column is inappropriate for our hometown paper that is read by children and families. If people are looking for sex partners among hospital patients, this is a story more appropriate for adult magazines where this type of story will reach its target audience.

This only shows the current state of affairs we have in Florida as Gay "people", We have no rights, this was a cruise put on by Rosie O'donnell and look at what happened in one of the Largest cities in America!! I am embarrased to be a Native Floridian.

How is this a sex column, fredb? You obviously didn't even read the article.

On a Caribbean cruise for gay families, wtf is that, talk about putting kids in a screwed up atmosphere

Hey fredb, this isn't a report about sex, this is a report about a hospital trashing everything they are supposed to stand for, like compassion and respect.

"Fredb" is the kind of person that permeates society today: Malinformed bigots who think being gay or lesbian is all about sex. He probably heard most of what he's spouting from the pulpit of the Mega Church down the street from where he lives. So sad.

I would not have apologized. 2 phags of either sex are NOT married nor do they have right to be. I would have defended my position if confronted by 'reporters'. I am entitled to my opinion and will make no excuse for it. But my comment will be deleted because I am obviously 'intolerant' and a 'homophobe'. Oh well.

I certainly hope Soylent Green's comment is not deleted. Too many people think bigotry against gay people is a "thing of the past." It's important that people are aware of the thugs like Soylent, who have such shriveled hearts that they can post a nasty comment after reading the heartbreaking story of this family.

I hope the JMH social worker is fully exposed. If his colleagues truly believe JMH does not discriminate, they need to see that he is not allowed any personal contact with patients or families.

I cannot imagine how someone could make up the comment he is alleged to have made.


Why has the blame here been shifted solely to the social worker? The admitting clerk rejected her offer to provide information for her partner and otherwise denied her access to her partner, including not telling her that she had been transferred to another unit. Doctors told her she could see her partner but then didn't take her back. All of this is documented in the court opinion and other speeches of Ms. Langbehn. The social worker came out to see her once and told her that she should not expect access because she was in "an antigay city and state," then was never seen again. This is wrong, obviously, but it is also irresponsible to have the appearance of one demonized employee when there was obviously a systematic problem. He is the one who made the comment, yes, but it took a lot of people to create this problem.

Steve Rothaus' article was fair and balanced reporting. How a small segment of readers interpreted his observations remains a mystery. So is Florida's wrong-headed anti-LGBT bastion of archaic laws that enable such discrimatory practices. Change will come eventually, just as it did with the Civil Rights Act.

All the bigots who wrote in need to look at their own families, as we are everywhere!

This type of ignorant behavior has no place in America, let alone our healthcare system.

Amy S. LPN

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