AUSTRALIAN doctors have called for marriage equality, saying it is a matter of public health.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has a new policy position paper supporting marriage equality. The paper states that denying marriage to same-sex couples has substantial effects on physical and mental health.

AMA president Dr Michael Gannon has written to both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, calling for bipartisan support for marriage equality.

“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.

“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.

“However, LGBTIQ-identifying Australians will not enjoy equal treatment under Australian law until they can marry.”

The AMA’s new policy paper comes after years of fighting for marriage equality by former AMA head Professor Kerryn Phelps, who worked during her tenure to have gender and sexuality recognised as health issues.

“There is no excuse for delaying this any further,” Professor Phelps said.

“The medical profession has carefully considered the health consequences of continued discrimination and made an emphatic statement that it should end.

“I think politicians now have a duty of care to the community to make sure marriage equality is introduced as soon as possible.”

LGBTI advocates have welcomed the AMA’s call for marriage equality.

“The AMA has highlighted what we have known for many years—legal inequality leads directly to poorer health outcomes for LGBTI people,” said just.equal spokesperson Ivan Hinton-Toeh.

“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.”

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