James Esseks of the American Civil Liberties Union national's LGBT Project recently spoke to NPR about President Obama's memorandum issued to the Department of Health and Human Services.

According to NPR, the memo orders hospitals to give same-sex couples the right to be with a partner who is sick or dying, and applies to every hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding.

James Esseks of the ACLU's LGBT Project called the memo a huge deal that harms no one and helps many people.

"What we face is a whole series of problems in our daily lives, and certainly in times of crisis, when the relationships that are an integral part of our lives are just not protected," Esseks said. "It shows up in lots of different places, but hospital visitation is a prime example."

In the past year, gay and lesbian groups have criticized the Obama administration, saying the White House has not moved quickly enough on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and other issues that are important to the community.

Esseks of the ACLU says he thinks this might change their view of the president.

"He put his name on this memorandum," Esseks said. "This change could have simply come through [the Department of] Health and Human Services. And the fact that he did it over his name, I think, speaks to an understanding of the real problem that people are facing."