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Australian Psychological Society backs gay marriage / Research shows health benefits

Marriage equality advocates and mental health experts have welcomed a statement supporting marriage equality for same-sex couples from the Australian Psychological Society which represents over 20,000 Australian psychologists.

The statement, issued today, endorses a similar statement issued by the American Psychological Association in August which cited research showing marriage equality improves the mental health of same-sex attracted people, while denying legal equality damages their mental health.

Professor Simon Crowe, President of the APS, said,

“Decades of psychological research provides the evidence linking marriage to mental health benefits, and highlighting the harm to individuals’ mental health of social exclusion. The APS supports the full recognition of same-sex relationships, on the basis of this evidence.”

Australian Marriage Equality campaign director, Rodney Croome, welcomed the APS statement.

“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”, Mr 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.”

As well as reflecting the best science available, the APS statement is based on the day-to-day experience of thousands of Australian psychologists who must deal with the discrimination-related stress and anxiety experienced by their same-sex attracted patients.

One of these psychologists is Paul Martin from the Centre for Human Potential in Brisbane whose practice specialises in counselling same-sex attracted people.

“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”, Mr Martin said.

“The negative impact of legislated inequality is particularly bad when we’re dealing with exclusion from marriage because marriage is all about affirming and strengthening relationships and strong relationships are a key to good mental health outcomes.”

Mr 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 than heterosexuals due to the kind of stigmatisation and discrimination perpetuated by exclusion from marriage.

Mr Martin’s comments were echoed by Dr Damien Riggs, convenor of the APS Gay and Lesbian Issues in Psychology Interest Group, who said,

“Marriage discrimination has a flow-on effect on same-sex attracted Australians, their loved ones, and the wider community. Psychologists must work to ensure that all Australians are supported to achieve positive mental health and full social inclusion.”

The APS statement comes just a few days after the release of new American research confirming that marriage improves the health of same-sex attracted men.

Researcher, Dr Mark Hatzenbuehler, said his study shows “that marriage equality may produce broad public health benefits by reducing the occurrence of stress-related health conditions in gay and bisexual men.”

For the APS statement, click here.

For fact sheets on marriage equality and health, click here and here.

For the APA’s fact sheet, “Marriage Equality and LGBT health”, click here.

For a report on the latest US research, click here.

For more information call Rodney Croome on 0409 010 668 or Paul Martin on 0419 005 555. The APS national office can be contacted on (03) 8662 3300.