The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has affirmed its support for same-sex marriage, claiming research shows amending the Marriage Act would benefit same-sex couples.

The statement follows a resolution passed by the American Psychological Association in August backing calls for reform in the US.

APS president Simon Crowe said allowing same-sex couples to marry would improve the health and wellbeing of gays and lesbians.

“Decades of psychological research provides the evidence linking marriage to mental health benefits, and highlighting the harm to individuals’ mental health of social exclusion,” Crowe said.

“The APS supports the full recognition of same-sex relationships, on the basis of this evidence.”

APS gay and lesbian interest group convenor Dr Damien Riggs said discrimination in marriage has a flow-on effect for gay and lesbian Australians and their families.

“Psychologists must work to ensure that all Australians are supported to achieve positive mental health and full social inclusion,” Riggs said.

The APA resolution was endorsed by the APS board – the body represents 20,000 members.

The move has been welcomed by marriage advocates.

Australian Marriage Equality spokesman Rodney Croome said the APS statement sends a message to Australian politicians that allowing same-sex marriage will improve the mental health of same-sex couples.

“With same-sex marriages now allowed in twelve countries on four continents, there is a mountain of scientific evidence that same-sex partners and their families experience less stigma and stress when they can marry, leading directly to better mental health outcomes,” Croome said

“It should be no surprise that those people excluded from marriage simply because of their partner’s gender can experience long-term psychological problems, given that marriage is a key legal and social institution from which many people derive great meaning and purpose in their lives.

“The APS statement sends a clear message to all federal MPs – if you support better mental health outcomes for Australian families then you must support marriage equality.”

Brisbane psychologist LGBTI mental health specialist Paul Martin said same-sex attracted people are over four times as likely to attempt suicide and twice as likely to experience very high levels of distress due to stigma and discrimination perpetuated by a marriage ban.

“The APS statement illustrates what I’ve seen in my practice for over 25 years, namely that legislative discrimination against gays and lesbians fosters the kind of negative stereotypes and prejudice that lead directly to psychological stress and self-loathing,” he said.  

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