Marriage equality has health benefits
The mental wellbeing of gay people is closer to that of heterosexuals in places where same-sex marriage is legal, research has found.
In a recent article in The Conversation three leading mental health experts, including former Australian of the Year Pat McGorry, said the mental health benefits of legalising same-sex marriage particularly flow on to young people, for whom suicide rates have a been a significant national concern for decades.
“Same-sex attracted young people are roughly twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder, more than six times more likely to have thoughts of suicide, and five times more likely to make a suicide attempt than their heterosexual peers,” McGorry and his co-authors said.
“These inequalities are exacerbated in jurisdictions that do not support same-sex marriage and where discrimination is therefore institutionally endorsed.”
They cite a US study that found mood and anxiety disorders, as well as alcohol-related problems, increased significantly among same-sex-attracted people who lived in states that banned gay marriage during the 2004 and 2005 elections.
In contrast, they say: “In Denmark same-sex married men experienced a reduction in rates of premature death after the implementation of a registered partnerships law in 1989.
“Similarly, in the United States, implementation of same-sex marriage policies has been associated with a 7 per cent relative reduction in the proportion of high school students attempting suicide.”
Marriage equality debate has increased discrimination
There are sound health reasons to legalise same-sex marriage, and there are also sound health reasons to oppose a drawn out and very public debate.
The National Mental Health Commission recently released a statement saying the marriage equality debate in Australia has heightened discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) people.
The Commission’s Co-Chair, Professor Allan Fels, said “LGBTIQ people have been experiencing damaging behaviour in their workplaces, communities and in social and traditional media.
“The Commission is alarmed about the potential negative health impacts these debates are having on individuals, couples and families who face scrutiny and judgement.”
On the eve of the High Court’s decision to allow the postal vote on marriage equality to go ahead, the Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, Catherine King, added her voice in parliament to concerns that discussions about marriage equality are harming the LBGTIQ community.
She noted the “mental health of LGBTIQ people is among the poorest in Australia”.
“Same-sex attracted Australians are up to 14 times likelier to attempt suicide. Young same-sex attracted Australians are six times likelier to attempt suicide than their peers.”
NSWNMA delegates support change
The issue of marriage equality was discussed by the NSWNMA at last year’s Annual Conference. Delegates overwhelmingly voted in favour of the campaign to establish a legislative framework for same-sex marriage in Australia, says Judith Kiejda, NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary.
Sally Whitney, an NSWNMA member who starred in a television commercial promoting marriage equality earlier this year, says it is important for Australians who are undecided about what their vote is going to be in the upcoming postal ballot to think carefully about what is fair and what is equal.
“Sexuality isn’t a choice, and marriage isn’t about religion but about the love commitment and union of two people,’ she said.
“Marriage affords rights that should be available to all Australians. The right to marry brings security to people and they feel valued.”