Stop Discriminating Against Same-Sex Couples in Hospitals

Target: Vice President-Mental Health, Barnabas Health Behavioral Center, Joe Hicks

Goal: Implement consequences for discrimination and educate staff on acceptable legal and ethical quality of care for same-sex couples.

When Paul Zibler went to see his fiancé at Barnabas Health Behavioral Center after an alleged suicide attempt, his relationship was questioned, then called “inappropriate” by staff when he attempted to hug and kiss his partner good-bye. Zibler and his partner have since been sent an apology letter that does little to ensure the situation won’t happen again in this New Jersey mental health center. Please sign this petition and urge the center’s Vice President to implement center-wide sensitivity training and consequences for involved staff.

After Zibler and his partner’s relationship was questioned and mocked by a Barnabas Health Behavioral Center nurse, Zibler reported the nurse to relevant staff. His complaint was met with total disregard as he was told it was “just a joke.” Zibler then ended his visit with his fiancé in the same way most would; with a hug and a kiss. Upon doing so, Zibler claims he was “cornered” by two nurses who told him “no contact, that is inappropriate.” He attempted his goodbye again and was promptly removed from the list of allowed visitors. Zibler’s subsequent calls to the hospital to check on his fiancé were unsuccessful due to the hospital order preventing any communication between him and hospital staff, or his partner. Zibler’s partner also sighted discriminatory behavior by Barnabas Health Behavioral Center staff once it was apparent he was in a same-sex relationship.

Not only is this account discriminatory and unethical, but it is also illegal. Rules approved by the Obama Administration last year protect hospital visitation rights, and the right of patients to choose who is allowed to visit them during a hospital stay. Currently, the rules can only be enforced in Medicaid and Medicare-participating hospitals, of which Barnabas Health Behavioral Center is included. Although the couple was given an apology letter that assured investigation into the incident, little has been done to ensure that a similar situation will not occur in the future.

Please sign this petition and urge Barnabas Health Behavioral Center to implement consequences for the staff’s alleged discriminatory behavior, as well as sensitivity training to the entire staff to prevent the situation from happening again. It is of utmost importance that mental health facilities, above all else, provide a non-discriminatory experience for patients in order to provide a compassionate environment where patients feel safe and respected.


Dear Mr. Hicks,

As you are aware, Paul Zibler is alleging discriminatory and unlawful behavior from the staff at Barnabas Health Behavioral Center. Zibler felt he and his partner where not being treated fairly as staff nurses prevented them from exchanging affection while saying good-bye, calling the hug and kiss “inappropriate.” Allegedly, the nurses went as far as preventing Zibler from speaking with his partner and vise versa while he remained at the Center. While you have issued an apology letter ensuring investigation into the incident, little has been done to prevent a similar situation from taking place in your mental health center.

Last year the Obama Administration issued new rules that protect visitation rights and the right of patients to choose who is allowed to visit them during a hospital stay. The rules are particular to same-sex couples and enforced within Medicaid and Medicare-participating hospitals, of which Barnabas Health Behavioral Center is included. Zibler and his fiancé’s situation implicates that your staff both legally and ethically prevented this patient from receiving the care that he is entitled.

Please prevent this sort of situation from happening again by penalizing involved staff for their actions, and implement sensitivity and legal training to all center staff. If nothing is done to remedy and learn from this situation, it is bound to happen to another patient.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: altergroup via Yahoo

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One Comment

  1. They don’t deserve appropriate healthcare like all citizens of this country?

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