[Updated at 7:57 p.m.] The president's memo Thursday notes that "There are few moments in our lives that call for great compassion and companionship that when a loved one is admitted to the hospital ... Yet every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides ..."
Read the president's memorandum (PDF)
Gay and lesbian Americans are "uniquely affected" by the relatives-only policy at hospitals, Obama said, adding that they "are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives - unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated."
The president listed widowers without children and members of certain religious orders among those who suffer under the policy.
[Posted at 7:49 p.m.] President Barack Obama has told the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a rule that would not allow hospitals to deny visitation privileges to gay and lesbian partners.