Hospital visitation rights*, as well as the right to make decisions for your partner are only two of the many rights the Commonwealth of Kentucky denies same-sex couples (and in the case, the State of Indiana).
This case however is bringing national attention to one of the many problems faced by same-sex couples:
For a quarter century Patrick Atkins and Brett Conrad shared their lives including a home and bank accounts but when Atkins fell near fatally ill Conrad discovered he had no rights in determining the care or who would deliver it to his ailing partner.
In 2005 Atkins collapsed while on a business trip to Atlanta. He had a ruptured aneurysm and later suffered a stroke while hospitalized.
When Conrad arrived in Atlanta Atkins' family directed the hospital to refuse him access to the ailing 47-year old, the Indianapolis Star reports. He was allowed by sympathetic hospital staff to sneak in after hours and after Atkins parents had left.
When Atkins was moved to a nursing home Conrad again was forced to sneak in to see the man with whom he had spend more than half his life.
Later that year Conrad filed for guardianship of Atkins. But the now severely disabled man's parents quickly moved their son to their home and have refused to allow Conrad access to him. For the past two years Conrad has been battling the Atkins family in court.
Legal documents obtained by the Star show that Atkins' mother, Jeanne Atkins, believes homosexuality is a sin and refuses to acknowledge the men's relationship. In June the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that Conrad must have visitation rights.
"Brett and Patrick have spent 25 years together as life partners - longer than Patrick lived at home with his parents - and their future life together has been destroyed by Patrick's tragic medical condition and by the Atkinses' unwillingness to accept their son's lifestyle," the ruling said.
But the court left the care of Atkins up to his parents. The Atkins family has asked the Appeals Court to reconsider the visitation ruling. Eventually the case is expected to go to the Indiana Supreme Court.
Indiana (like Kentucky) has a so-called defense of marriage law barring same-sex couples from marrying and no legislation giving any rights to gay and lesbian couples.
* Kentucky Equality Federation and allied organizations tried unsuccessfully to get hospital visitation rights passed by the 2007 Kentucky General Assembly.