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NEWS | UPFRONT
LACK OF MARRIAGE EQUALITY OFFICIALLY A PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE.
NOW WILL THE POLLIES LISTEN? BY JACQUELINE KATE
The Australian Medical
Association (AMA) has
declared marriage inequality as a
public health issue, calling on the
Australian government to legis-
The AMA released a statement
on 20 May, which said that long-
term discrimination and the
effects of the current divisive
public debate over LGBTQI rights
directly lead to poor mental and
physical health in the community.
“ Discrimination has a severe, damaging impact on mental and physi-
ological health outcomes, and LGBTIQ individuals have endured a long
history of institutional discrimination in this country,” said AMA Presi-
dent, Dr Michael Gannon in a statement. “ It is often forgotten that, at
the core of this debate, are real people and families. It’s time to put an
end to this protracted, damaging debate so that they can get on with
Dr Gannon also personally wrote to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull,
and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, urging bipartisanship towards leg-
islating marriage equality.
The AMA’s Position Statement on Marriage Equality 2017 notes that
people who identify as gay or transgender have significantly poorer
mental and physiological health outcomes than those experienced by
the broader population. It says that they are more likely to engage in
high-risk behaviour such as illicit drug use or alcohol abuse and have
the highest rates of suicide in Australia.
It labels the cause as “minority stress” bred from the hostile environ-
ment of hetero-normative society, with homophobia as an inherent by-
product. The statement also acknowledges the impact a lack of legal
recognition can have in medical emergencies. Consequences can be
tragic as partners may not have the right to represent the wishes of
their sick or injured partner. In such cases, the patient’s biological rela-
tives will be granted primary decision-making.
The AMA also recommends new anti-discrimination laws be put in
place to prevent businesses from restricting goods and services from
people based on those people’s gender or sexual orientation.
Moreover, the statement confirms that there is “no putative, peer-
reviewed evidence to suggest that children raised in same-sex parented
families suffer poorer health or psychosocial outcomes as a direct result
of the sexual orientation of their parents or carers”.
This move by the AMA has been in development for over a decade. The
foundations were laid by former President of the AMA, Kerryn Phelps.
She was the first woman and member of the LGBTQI community to be
elected to that position. Professor Phelps was elected two years after
being outed by the media following her marriage in the US to her part-
ner Jackie Stricker. She has also been made a Member of the Order of
Australia for her services to medicine, and currently sits as the Deputy
Lord Mayor in the Council of Sydney City. It was during her time at the
AMA that she began the fight to recognise discrimination against the
LGBTQI community as a health issue.
“ The political and legislative support for the security of family groups is
a very conservative ideal,” said Prof. Phelps. “I don’t think the religious,
cultural right-wing conservatives now have anywhere to hide. There is
no excuse for delaying this any further. The medical profession has care-
fully considered the health consequences of continued discrimination
and made an emphatic statement that it should end... I think politicians
now have a duty of care to the community to make sure marriage equal-
ity is introduced as soon as possible.”Deputy Labor leader, Tanya Pliber-
sek, has welcomed the AMA’s support.
“I know that a lot of doctors ... had grave concerns about what a plebi-
scite would do to the mental health of people who would be subjected
to public discussion and assessment of the worth of their relationships,”
she said.While Prime Minister Turnbull individually supports a free vote,
his party policy remains to hold a public plebiscite.
“I DON’T THINK THE
CONSERVATIVES NOW HAVE
ANYWHERE TO HIDE
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