AMA’s marriage equality stance slammed
A petition demanding that the Australian Medical Association retract its support for marriage equality has garnered signatures from over 370 doctors, including many AMA members and six former AMA state presidents.
A group of doctors led by gastroenterologist and former AMA Tasmania president Dr Chris Middleton delivered the petition to AMA national president Dr Michael Gannon late last week. The group says the AMA’s position statement on marriage equality, released in May, is “fatally flawed”, particularly on the question of harm to children of same-sex parents. It also says that the AMA neglected to consult its own members before publishing its statement.
The AMA statement comes out strongly in favour of marriage equality on health grounds, stating that it is the right of “any adult and their consenting partner to have their relationship recognised under the Marriage Act 1961, regardless of gender”.
It says the lack of legal recognition can have “tragic consequences” in medical emergencies, when, for example, one spouse has to make decisions on behalf of an ill or injured spouse.
It also states that while same-sex parenting should be treated as a separate issue to same-sex marriage, “there is no putative, peer-reviewed evidence to suggest that children raised in same-sex parented families suffer poorer health or psychological outcomes as a direct result of the sexual orientation of their parents or carers”.
But the petition signatories, who include former WA AMA president Professor Paul Skerritt and former government minister and Queensland AMA president Dr John Herron, take issue with this claim.
In their critique, the signatories point to three recent studies which claim to find poorer emotional, educational or other adverse outcomes among children with same same-sex parents.
They say the AMA statement has “misled politicians and the public” on a number of other issues; it is “unworthy of the Australian Medical Association and we call for its immediate and public retraction”.
But the AMA is not backing down. In an interview over the weekend, Dr Gannon said he had expected that a portion of the AMA membership would be disappointed with the statement on marriage equality, but that he was happy to defend the process that had led to its creation.
“It was worked out through a working group made up of federal councillors and other experts,” he noted.
He said whether the AMA membership should have been polled about it was “something we will reflect on”.
But he added that the response had been “overwhelmingly supportive in terms of our position on marriage equality.”
He also reiterated the point that the issue of marriage equality was quite different from that of same-sex parenting.
“No one here is arguing about access to in vitro fertilisation or assisted reproduction for gay and lesbian people. That’s not the debate. The debate here is about marriage equality. So I think it’s important that we talk about what we’re talking about.”
He said that it was undeniably the case that a loving home is the right environment for a child to grow up in, regardless of the sexual orientation of the parents.
The AMA is not the only Australian medical body to come out in favour of marriage equality on health grounds. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians has stated that it “supports initiatives to amend legislation, policies and practices that are unfairly restricting the rights of the LGBTI population. This includes adjustments to marriage laws so that same-sex and transgender individuals can marry, regardless of their gender identity.”
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists has also put out a position statement in favour of marriage equality.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, on the other hand, has remained silent on the issue.