The Nevada legislature passed the Domestic Partnership Responsibilities Act three years ago. The law grants to same-sex domestic partners all the legal rights married couples enjoy. This did not, however, help Terri-Ann Simonelli when her domestic partner Brittney Leon checked into Spring Valley Hospital with complications in her pregnancy. The hospital denied Simonelli visitation rights until she secured power of attorney, according to The Las Vegas Review-Journal.
When Leon and Simonelli offered to return home and get the domestic partnership document the State of Nevada issued them, the hospital admissions officer resisted, maintaining that their policy required power of attorney for all gay couples.
In a tense and exasperating moment made more so by this exchange, Simonelli broke down: "I am usually a big fighter. But I was so emotionally upset." The hospital held firm. Leon ended up losing the baby.
"We went there thinking we had the state's backing," Simonelli told the Review-Journal. "Then we were told we were wrong. It didn't matter that we were registered domestic partners."
It's not surprising that Leon and Simonelli assumed they had hospital visitation rights for each other. Here is the Nevada law that covers this issue:
NRS 122A.200 1(a) Domestic partners have the same rights, protections and benefits, and are subject to the same responsibilities, obligations and duties under law, whether derived from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses.
And then, of course, there's this:
NRS 122A.200 1(f) Domestic partners have the same right to nondiscriminatory treatment as that provided to spouses.
One Nevada lawmaker says the seeming breach of these statutes might come down to the lack of penalty for actually breaching them. "What really happens now if they deny your rights? Not much," said Democratic Assemblyman Tick Segerblom of Las Vegas. "We need a remedy."
Leon and Simonelli declined to file a complaint against Spring Valley Hospital. They said they hope their experience, though devastating, will do some good by raising awareness of the discrimination that same-sex partners still face across the country, even in states where the law itself defends their rights.