The present state of the law regarding medical rights for same-sex couples and their families is highly inconsistent. A handful of states permit same-sex marriage. Another handful of states recognize same-sex marriages from other states, allow civil unions with state-level spousal rights for same-sex couples, or extend some or nearly all state-level spousal rights to unmarried couples in domestic partnerships. With these widely disparate levels of recognition, it becomes difficult for same-sex couples to navigate their options and rights when a loved one—a partner or child—has a medical emergency or is in the hospital. In Part II, this Comment will examine the present state of the law regarding hospital visitation and medical decision-making for partners and non-biological parents in several states, using North Carolina, which does not have a constitutional ban against same-sex marriage, and Florida, which has denied recognition of same-sex marriage under all circumstances, as examples. Part III will explore the justifications and criticisms of expanded rights for such families. Part IV will examine the difficulties presented by the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) in creating uniform law. Finally, Part V will propose a Model Act that can ameliorate some of the uncertainty surrounding the rights for same-sex couples.

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2010