Lesbians Sue When Partners Die Alone

"But as soon as I pulled up [to the hospital] and got out with three young kids and seven pieces of luggage, I was stopped at the door: 'You need to take a seat,'" said Langbehn. "'Go through another door and park your luggage in a small waiting room.'"

There, the family sat during Pond's dying hours, except for two brief encounters with the doctors -- one to ask about a brain monitor and the other to report there was no hope left for Pond.

Langbehn was also allowed in Pond's room for five minutes to watch a priest give her the last rites, but she said her pleas to let the children see their mother were unsuccessful, even when she provided birth certificates.

"As that was happening, I kept thinking, I've got to get the kids back to her," said Langbehn. "They need to say goodbye to their mom."

When Pond's "real relative" -- her sister -- arrived just before midnight, Langbehn and the children were able to see her, though she was brain dead.

Despite providing legal health directives, Langbehn said, "Short of being straight, I don't know what I could have done differently."

Hospital Denies Discrimination

But hospital officials argue they did treat Langbehn as Pond's legal partner, allowing her to make medical decisions, including organ donation.

They also said the hospital's general visitation policy does not discriminate against same-sex couples.

"It doesn't matter and no distinctions are made," said Robert Alonso, spokesman for the public trust that runs Jackson Memorial.

But in its Ryder Trauma Center, where Pond was treated, "there is no automatic visitation for anybody, no matter who you are," he told ABCNews.com.

There, visitation is restricted because of the nature of the level 1 trauma center -- the only one in Miami Dade County -- where doctors treat gunshot wounds, stabbings and other "horrific injuries," according to Alonso.

Same-Sex Couples Struggle

"Clearly, we embrace visitors in the health process," he said. "If there is any delay in a unit as intense as this one, care is delivered to the patient. It has nothing to do with religious beliefs or sexual orientation or background."

"There are some extreme allegations made that [doctors and staff] deliberately tried to harm people emotionally," said Alonso. "That is the only story being told. They were there trying to save her partner's life."

But in states like Florida, where same-sex marriage was outlawed last year in Constitutional amendment, many gay couples say they have to argue with hospital officials to visit their loved ones.

The Joint Commission, the national body that accredits hospitals, does not specifically address visitation policies, but it sets standards for addressing the "comfort and dignity" of both the patient and family in end-of-life care, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Zhani.

Standards also include respecting a patient's "cultural and personal values, beliefs and preferences."

Lambda lawyer Beth Littrell said hospitals need to recognize the legitimacy of same-sex relationships so that "loved ones are not kept apart when they need each other most."

Night Nurse Banned Gay Partner From Deathbed

Such was the case with Sharon Reed, another Washington resident who said she was repeatedly told to leave her dying partner's hospital room by a "temporary" night nurse in 2005.

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