Lack of Legal Recognition of Partners. Hospitals and health care providers do not always give the partner of a lesbian patient, or the co-parent of a lesbian's child, the same rights to visit and to access information as is provided to a heterosexual spouse. There is also, in some cases, a legal refusal to honor the lesbian partner of a patient as her health care proxy even when so designated by the patient. In the MLHS, 9% of the respondents reported that health care workers had not allowed their female partners to stay with them during treatment or see them in a treatment facility; 9% also said that providers had not included their partner in discussion about the respondent's treatment (Bybee and Roeder, 1990).
Since insurance coverage is the primary gateway to health care in this country, lesbians are at a distinct disadvantage relative to married heterosexual women because of the common prohibition against spousal benefits for unmarried partners (Denenberg, 1995; Stevens, 1995). Among respondents to the NLHCS, 16% stated that they did not receive health