Janice Langbehn

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Janice K. Langbehn, 2011

Janice K. Langbehn (born September 22, 1968) is a gay American activist and social worker, who became an activist as a result of the events surrounding the death of her partner, Lisa Marie Pond (October 8, 1967 − February 19, 2007). Langbehn earned her Masters in Public Administration in 1995 and her Masters in Social Work from the University of Washington in 2000.

Background story[edit]

In February 2007, Langbehn and Pond, along with three of their four children, were in Miami, FL to depart on a cruise. Pond collapsed before the cruise departed and was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital's (JMH) Ryder Trauma Center. When Langbehn and their children arrived, a JMH social worker told Langbehn she was in an "anti-gay city and state" and required a health care proxy to see Pond. Langbehn had a power of attorney (POA) which was faxed to the hospital within an hour of Pond's arrival. However, Langbehn and their 3 young children were kept from Pond's side for eight hours. Pond slipped into a coma from a brain aneurysm and died without her partner of 18 years or her children by her side.

Federal lawsuit[edit]

When Langbehn unsuccessfully sought an apology from the hospital, she turned to Lambda Legal Defense Fund. Lambda Legal filed suit against Jackson Memorial on June 25, 2008, in the Federal District Court of Miami, FL.[1]

Lawsuit dismissed[edit]

Florida Federal District Court Judge Jordan wrote in his Order to Dismiss,

If the plaintiffs' allegations are true, which I assume that they are when deciding the defendants' 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the defendants' lack of sensitivity and attention to Ms. Langbehn, Ms. Pond, and their children caused them needless distress during a time of vulnerability. The defendants' failure to provide Ms. Langbehn and her children frequent updates on Ms. Pond's status, to allow Ms. Langbehn and her children to visit Ms. Pond after emergency medical care ceased; to inform Ms. Langbehn that Ms. Pond had been transferred to the intensive care unit, and to provide Ms. Langbehn Ms. Pond's medical records as she requested, exhibited a lack of compassion and was unbecoming of a renowned trauma center like Ryder. Unfortunately, no relief is available for these failures based on the allegations plead in the amended complaint.[2]


Langbehn was asked to speak publicly about her partner's death for the first time at the Olympia, WA Pride gathering on June 18, 2007, four months after Pond's death. As the family's story caught national attention they were featured in the New York Times by writer Tara Parker-Pope.[3] As a result of the article, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel brought the article to the attention of President Barack Obama. On April 15, 2010, President Obama called Langbehn from Air Force One to apologize for the treatment her family received at Jackson Memorial Hospital and to inform her about the Presidential Memorandum he signed earlier that day. President Obama's Memorandum[4] directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius to create a rule allowing hospital visitations for same-sex couples comparable to those of married and opposite sex couples. Following Langbehn's phone call with President Obama, she spoke live to CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper on the show Anderson Cooper 360°.[5]

Committee for Fair Visitation at Jackson Memorial Hospital[edit]

As a result of the ongoing media attention the "Committee for Fair Visitation at Jackson Memorial Hospital"[6] negotiated changes with the hospital regarding same-sex visitation. The committee consisted of partners throughout the LGBT Community including Lambda Legal, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) among others. On April 13, 2010, Jackson Memorial Hospital in conjunction with the Committee announced significant changes to visitation policies regarding LGBT patients.[7] In addition to the changes at Jackson Memorial Hospital, the Joint Commission (formerly the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospital Organizations - JCAHO), published new guidelines addressing inclusion of LGBT patient and families in hospital visitation.[8]

Healthcare Equality Index[edit]

In 2007 the Human Rights Campaign published a report entitled the "Healthcare Equality Index" which examined equality of care in US hospitals. In 2010,[9] the HEI reported indicated progress, crediting the Langbehn-Pond story for bringing the issue of hospital visitation for same-sex couples into the public eye. The proposed rule for "Fair Visitation" was issued in November 2010. Over 1,250 public comments were received during the open comment period. In 2010, the Human Rights Campaign published the fourth edition of the Healthcare Equality Index, assessing America's hospitals in their inclusiveness for treating LGBT families and individuals.[10] This report was dedicated to the memory of Langbehn's partner, Lisa Marie Pond.

White House pride celebration[edit]

On June 22, 2010, Langbehn and her three children met with Secretary Sebelius and then attended a gay pride reception at the White House. Prior to the reception, President Obama met with Langbehn and the children to again offer his apology. While speaking at the reception, President Obama described the struggles the Langbehn-Pond family faced and the impact of his memorandum. The President said, "Just a few moments ago, I met with Janice Langbehn and her children... And when Janice's partner of 18 years, Lisa, suddenly collapsed because of an aneurysm, Janice and the couple's three kids were denied the chance to comfort their partner and their mom -- barred from Lisa's bedside. It was wrong. It was cruel. And in part because of their story, I instructed my Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, to make sure that any hospital that's participating in Medicare or Medicaid -- that means most hospitals -- (laughter) -- allow gay and lesbian partners the same privileges and visitation rights as straight partners."[11]

Recognition and awards[edit]

Presidential Citizens Medal
Presidential Citizens Medal.png
Awarded by
Seal of the President of the United States.svg
the President of the United States
Type Civil award
Eligibility Citizens of the United States
Awarded for "exemplary deeds or services [performed] for his or her country or fellow citizens."
Status Currently awarded
Established November 13, 1969
Next (higher) Presidential Medal of Freedom
Next (lower) Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor
Ribbon of the medal

In 2010, Langbehn was awarded the Olympia, WA "Capital City Pride Award for 2010". On September 25, 2010, Langbehn was awarded the National Equality Award by the Human Rights Campaign for her continued fight for equality in hospital visitation. Langbehn continues to speak for the need of equality for LGBT families and impressing upon her audiences that "holding Lisa's hand was not a gay right but a human right." Notable editor of the Windy City Times, Tracy Baim, wrote about the Langbehn-Pond family in her recently published book, Obama and the Gays: A Political Marriage.[12] Also in 2010, the Human Rights Campaign published a Health Care Equality Index assessing America's hospitals in their inclusiveness for treating LGBT families and individuals.[10] This report was dedicated to the memory of Langbehn's partner, Lisa Marie Pond. Lambda Legal presented Langbehn with their Liberty award in New York City on May 2, 2011.

Presidential Citizens Medal[edit]

On October 20, 2011, President Barack Obama awarded Langbehn with the second highest civilian honor: the Presidential Citizens Medal.[13][14] Langbehn was one of 13 recipients for 2011. Langbehn's citation read

Janice Langbehn transformed her own profound loss into a resounding call for compassion and equality. When the woman she loved, Lisa Pond, suddenly suffered a brain aneurism, Janice and her children were denied the right to stand beside her in her final moments. Determined to spare others from similar injustice, Janice spoke out to help ensure that same-sex couples can support and comfort each other through some of life's toughest trials. The United States honors Janice Langbehn for advancing America's promise for equality for all.[15]

Public policy change[edit]

The hospital visitation rule requiring all hospital receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding to allow for LGBT family visitation went into effect January 18, 2011.[16]

A short film, Quiet,[17] a fictionalized version of Lisa's death is receiving awards and showing at Academy Award qualify festivals. The film is dedicated to the memory of Lisa Pond and how her death catapulted LGBT hospital visitation to the forefront of publicly policy.

Langbehn resides in Lacey, WA raising the children that Pond and she adopted from the Washington State foster care program.

Lisa Marie Pond[edit]

Lisa Marie Pond

Langbehn's partner of 18 years, Lisa Marie Pond, collapsed on February 18, 2007 after a fatal brain aneurysm. She was 39 years old.[18] Arriving at Ryder Trauma Center, Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Langbehn was barred from seeing Pond. Langbehn could not see Pond or receive information about her health status. Langbehn contacted friends in their hometown, Lacey, WA and the required documents[19] were faxed to the hospital. Pond died the following morning at 10:45am EST and per her wishes outlined in her Living Will[20] her organs were donated saving four lives. Pond's partner and children participated in the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 2, 2012 celebrating Pond's organ donations.[21]


  1. ^ Lambda Legal Langbehn v. Jackson Memorial Hospital, September 9, 2008, accessed November 14, 2010
  2. ^ Jordan, Adalberto. Order to Dismiss Langbehn v. Jackson Memorial, September 29, 2009, accessed November 14, 2010
  3. ^ Parker-Pope, Tara. "Langbehn-Pond Family" The New York Times, May 19, 2009, accessed November 14, 2010
  4. ^ Obama, Barack. Presidential Memorandum on Hospital Visitation April 15, 2010, accessed November 14, 2010
  5. ^ Cooper, Anderson. Anderson Cooper 360° video April 15, 2010, accessed November 14, 2010
  6. ^ "Florida groups fight for hospital visitation reform", by Joseph Erbentraut, edgesanfrancisco.com, October 29, 2009
  7. ^ O'Neill, Natalie (April 13, 2010). "Jackson Memorial Hospital Gets Gay-Friendly Visitation Policy, Joins the 21st Century". Miami New Times. Retrieved April 6, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Joint Commission Perspectives" January 2010, Volume 30, Issue 1, p.5
  9. ^ Delpercio, Alison. "Healthcare Equality Index: 2010", Spring, 2010, accessed November 14, 2010
  10. ^ a b Rothaus, Steve (June 7, 2010). "Jackson Memorial Hospital scores well in treating gay patients". Miami Herald. Retrieved April 6, 2016. 
  11. ^ Obama, Barack. Transcript of President Obama's speech June 22, 2010, accessed November 14, 2010
  12. ^ Baim, Tracy. Obama and the Gays: A Political Marriage. Prairie Avenue Productions, 2010, p. 327
  13. ^ Carlos Santoscoy (October 20, 2011). "Obama Honors Gay Rights Advocate Janice Langbehn With Citizens Medal". On Top Magazine. Retrieved October 25, 2011. 
  14. ^ Tammye Nash (October 12, 2011). "Lesbian among 13 recipients of Citizens Medal". dallasvoice.com. Retrieved October 25, 2011. 
  15. ^ Janice Langbehn receiving Presidential Citizens Medal, accessed July 2012
  16. ^ "Hospital visitation rule effective January 18, 2011" ABC News, accessed July 2012
  17. ^ "Quiet (2012)". Retrieved 25 September 2017 – via www.imdb.com. 
  18. ^ "Lisa M. Pond's Obituary on Hartford Courant". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 25 September 2017. 
  19. ^ Pond, Lisa. Lisa Marie Pond, Power of Attorney February 6, 2001 p.24, accessed November 14, 2010
  20. ^ Pond, Lisa. Lisa Marie Pond, Living Will February 6, 2001 p.21, accessed July 23, 2012
  21. ^ NWCN. NWCN Coverage of Tournament of Rose Parade January 2, 2012, accessed July 23, 2012

Further reading[edit]