The country’s peak medical body, the Australian Medical Association (AMA), has called on the federal parliament to legislate for marriage equality and end the “protracted and damaging” public debate over the reform.
AMA President Dr Michael Gannon (pictured, left) has written to both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to urge a bipartisan approach to marriage equality.
Releasing the AMA Position Statement on Marriage Equality 2017 on Saturday, Dr Gannon said that excluding same-sex couples from the institution of marriage has significant mental and physical health consequences for LGBTIQ Australians.
“Discrimination has a severe, damaging impact on mental and physiological health outcomes, and LGBTIQ individuals have endured a long history of institutional discrimination in this country,” Dr Gannon said.
“This discrimination has existed across the breadth of society; in our courts, in our classrooms, and in our hospitals.
“Many of these inequalities have been rightly nullified. Homosexuality is no longer a crime, nor is it classified as a psychiatric disorder. The ‘gay panic’ defence is no longer allowed in cases of murder or assault, and same-sex couples are allowed to adopt children in most jurisdictions.
But, he said, LGBTIQ-identifying Australians won’t enjoy equal treatment under Australian law until they can marry and it was time to remove the discrimination.
“It is the AMA’s position that it is the right of any adult and their consenting adult partner to have their relationship recognised under the Marriage Act 1961, regardless of gender,” he said.
“There are ongoing, damaging effects of having a prolonged, divisive, public debate, and the AMA urges the Australian Parliament to legislate for marriage equality to resolve this.”
Dr Kerryn Phelps (pictured, right), former Australian Medical Association President and the first LGBTI person to hold the position, said politicians “now have a duty of care to the community to make sure marriage equality is introduced as soon as possible.”
“I don’t think the religious, cultural right-wing conservatives now have anywhere to hide. There is no excuse for delaying this any further,” she told Fairfax Media.
“The medical profession has carefully considered the health consequences of continued discrimination and made an emphatic statement that it should end.”
The AMA noted that people who identify as LGBTIQ have significantly poorer mental and physiological health outcomes than those experienced by the broader population, and Dr Gannon said those outcomes “are a consequence of discrimination and stigmatisation, and are compounded by reduced access to health care, again due to discrimination.”
“The lack of legal recognition can have tragic consequences in medical emergencies, as a person may not have the right to advocate for their ill or injured partner, and decision-making may be deferred to a member of the patient’s biological family instead,” he said.
“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 their lives.
“As long as the discrimination against LGBTIQ people continues, they will continue to experience poorer health outcomes as a result.”
Alex Greenwich from Australian Marriage Equality applauded the AMA for their support and said the move was “extremely significant”.
“We hope their support sends a strong message to our parliamentarians that delivering his reform can only be good for Australia, and continued delay is cruel and unnecessary,” he said.