Terri-Ann Simonelli, left, and her domestic partner, Brittney Leon
140,000 Demand Hospitals Respect Same-Sex Couples' Visitation Rights

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com September 12 2012 4:45 PM ET

More than 140,000 people have signed a petition urging a Pennsylvania-based hospital chain to adhere to a 2010 Health and Human Services mandate that requires hospitals receiving federal funds to respect hospital visitation rights of same-sex couples.

The petition, hosted on Change.org and launched by Terri-Ann Simonelli, asks Universal Health Services to end its discrimination against LGBT couples. Each new signature on the petition is sent via email to Universal Health Services chief compliance and privacy officer James M. Caponi.

Simonelli and her partner, Brittney Leon, are in a domestic partnership in their home state of Nevada. On July 20, Leon was admitted to Las Vegas's Spring Valley Hospital, which is operated by Universal Health Services, with complications from her pregnancy. When Simonelli attempted to confirm that she could make any necessary medical decisions should her partner become incapacitated, the hospital staff informed Simonelli she could not do so, since the women did not posses a power of attorney agreement, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

While Leon's doctor did keep Simonelli informed about Leon's status and other hospital staffers were kind to the women, there was a period of time when Simonelli was unaware of her partner's medical difficulties, including a large loss of blood. Ultimately, Leon lost the child during the hospital stay.

"The Spring Valley Hospital is one of hundreds of hospitals owned and operated by Universal Health Services — a Fortune 500 hospital management company," wrote Simonelli on the Change.org petition. "It's time for Universal Health Services to ensure that each and every hospital it own and operates complies to the new laws recognizing visitation and decision-making rights of gay couples."

In 2009, Nevada established domestic partnerships, which in theory give same-sex couples all the same rights as married couples.