As the government allocates money for a marriage equality plebiscite in the budget, the AMA says no to a plebiscite and yes to marriage equality.
In November last year, the marriage equality plebiscite was defeated in the Senate after Labor, The Greens, Derryn Hinch and the Nick Xenophon Team decided that people’s human rights should not be put to a popular vote.
Despite strong public support for a parliamentary free vote on marriage equality, hidden in this month’s Federal budget is $170 million of funding for the plebiscite.
The budget paper states that the government “remains committed to a plebiscite in relation to same-sex marriage and that the money will be provided “as soon as the necessary legislation is enacted by the Parliament.”
Releasing the Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) Position Statement on Marriage Equality 2017, AMA president Dr Michael Gannon said that excluding same-sex couples from the institution of marriage has significant mental and physical health consequences for LGBTIQ Australians.
He has written to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, rejecting the idea of a plebiscite and calling for a bipartisan approach to resolve the issue.
Dr Gannon wrote that “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.”
“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.”
“People who identify as LGBTIQ have significantly poorer mental and physiological health outcomes than those experienced by the broader population. They are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviours such as illicit drug use or alcohol abuse, and have the highest rates of suicidality of any population group in Australia."
“These health outcomes are a consequence of discrimination and stigmatisation, and are compounded by reduced access to health care, again due to discrimination,” Dr Gannon said.
“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.”
The AMA joins the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and Headspace in rejecting a plebiscite and supporting marriage equality for reasons of health and being. The support of the conservative AMA, Australia’s most powerful body representing Doctors and medical students, has been welcomed by marriage equality advocates.
Co-Chair of Australian Marriage Equality Alex Greenwich said “The AMA’s support for marriage equality highlights the important health and wellbeing benefits of treating all citizens equally and fairly.”
“Doctors know from first-hand experience the tragic consequences in medical emergencies that come from the lack of equal legal recognition of same-sex partners.”
“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.”
LGBT rights activist Rodney Croome added, “The AMA’s concern about the health of LGBTI Australians is a reminder that we should never go down the path of a plebiscite.”
Just-Equal spokesman, Ivan Hinton-Teoh said “The AMA has highlighted what we have known for many years — legal inequality leads directly to poorer health outcomes for LGBTI people.”
“If this Government cares about the health and wellbeing of LGBTI Australians and their families it will allow a free vote so marriage equality can pass straight away.”
Mr Turnbull has previously described opposition to the plebiscite on the grounds of health and wellbeing "ridiculous."
Read the AMA’s Position Statement On Marriage Equality 2017.