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Australia’s public health experts say it’s time to legalize gay marriage

Australia’s public health experts say it’s time to legalize gay marriage

The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) and the Council of Academic Public Health Associations (CAPHIA) have become the latest health authorities to urge the Australian Government to stop obstructing efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Australia.

PHAA CEO Michael Moore and CAPHIA chairs Catherine Bennett and Colleen Fisher wrote to all members of the House of Representatives and senators to make ‘the public health case for marriage equality’ – noting the large body of research showing that marginalizing groups in society impacted on their general wellbeing.

‘Public health has long been concerned with addressing the social determinants of health that are recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as critical drivers of health inequity – that is, poorer health outcomes among the vulnerable and marginalized,’ the groups say.

‘The WHO … recognizes poor mental health as a global public health priority, and that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people experience higher levels of poor mental health, including suicide, than the general population.’

‘Amongst the many social determinants of health adversely affecting the mental and physical health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ people are social exclusion, stigma and discrimination, often associated with poorer health service access and utilization, poorer sexual health, and poorer life expectancy.

‘The WHO has resolved that all member states, including Australia, take into account health equity in all national policies. Critically, this resolution is targeted at all policy, not just health policy. It is our belief that the Australian government has a responsibility to ensure that policy on marriage takes into account the mental and physical health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ people.’

The groups also highlighted the effect that a discriminatory definition of marriage could have on the family members of LGBTI people.

‘A definition of marriage that promotes the social exclusion of LGBTIQ people compounds health inequities worsening health outcomes,’ the groups say.

‘Children of same-sex couples are a vulnerable group that deserve consideration in policies on marriage. A definition of marriage that excludes the parents and families of these children unnecessarily compounds health inequities that result from social exclusion, stigma and discrimination.’

PHAA and CAPHIA join national Australian mental health initiative BeyondBlue in backing efforts to finally legalize same-sex marriage in Australia.

Former Liberal Premier of Victoria and BeyondBlue chairman Jeff Kennett issued a statement earlier this week declaring, ‘same sex marriage is not a political issue but one of equity; every Australian should have the same rights under law, including the same rights to make the choice to marry or not.’

‘The continuation of the current law reinforces that inequity, stigma and discrimination are in direct conflict to the laws and intent of the anti-discrimination Acts we have listed above.

‘Many members of Australia’s LGBTI community would like to marry in their own country. Many parents, children, relations and friends would like to witness the union of two people in their own country. Allowing same sex marriages will not make any difference to the lives of the majority, including married heterosexuals, but it will make a great deal of difference to those who seek same sex unions.

No law-abiding Australian citizen should be made to feel like a second-class Australian. Yet that is what the current law clearly does … BeyondBlue requests all our politicians, regardless of their politics or personal feelings, to understand the ramifications of a law that through positive discrimination causes so much unnecessary hurt, pain, mental illness and worse to some.’

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has refused to allow his MPs a conscience vote on same-sex marriage and has instead suggested a popular vote by the Australian people must be held on the issue following the next election.