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100 Women We Love

photo by Dmitrios Kambouris
Janice Langbehn
On October 12, 1991, Janice Langbehn and Lisa Marie Pond married and created a loving family dedicated to helping abused and neglected children. In 1992, they became the first openly gay foster parents in the country—and over the years, Langbehn and Pond (who shared a background in psychology and social work) raised 25 children and formally adopted four with special needs. As a 15th anniversary gift, Langbehn surprised Pond and the kids with a gay family cruise in February 2007—but before they left port, Pond suffered a brain aneurysm. The emergency room in Florida barred Langbehn from her partner’s room despite legal documents giving her the power of attorney. Pond passed away, tragically, alone. Though grieving, Langbehn spoke out against the injustice, prompting President Obama to issue a Memorandum allowing same-sex couples the same hospital visitation rights as other families. "Losing Lisa just five years ago was a defining moment in my life; being denied access to hold her hand during her final eight hours of life will haunt me forever,” Langbehn says. “With the loss of Lisa so suddenly and unexpectedly, it compelled me to speak up and make a difference.” In 2011 Obama awarded Langbehn the nation’s second-highest civilian distinction, the Presidential Citizens Medal, an honor that shares her mantel with awards from GLAAD, HRC, Lambda Legal and others. “I don't believe, for a person to make difference, it needs to come from such a major life event,” she says. “All it takes is a passion and a desire to change something. One voice can make an impact.”
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