This past Sunday at our Indianapolis PFLAG meeting, Dr. William Buffie, a well-respected physician and a leader in his field, spoke to us about his work to encourage the Indiana State Medical Association to take a public stand against discrimination directed towards people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Dr. Buffie believes that this bias creates a risk to public health.
His research has found what so many understand innately - bias and discrimination lead to myriad health difficulties, while acceptance - both legal and social - is sound public heath policy leading to improving and saving lives.
Last year, the Indiana State Medical Association (ISMA) passed, by an overwhelming majority voice vote at its annual convention, a resolution that the association (1) recognizes that exclusion from civil union or marriage contributes to health care disparities affecting same-sex households; (2) will work to reduce health care disparities among members of same-sex households, including minor children; and (3) will support measures providing same-sex households with the same rights and privileges to health care, health insurance, and survivor benefits, as afforded opposite-sex households.
Subsequent Indiana legislative efforts (HJR-6) calling for a constitutional "gay marriage ban" threatens to directly contribute to health care disparities affecting same-sex households. The practical adverse health consequences to be anticipated if a constitutional ban on nontraditional marriage were to become law in Indiana are summarized in an article from William Buffie, M.D. that was published by the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) [pdf] in June of this year.
This year, Dr. Buffie is seeking adoption of a new resolution that calls on the ISMA to: (1) publicly oppose future Indiana General Assembly efforts promoting HJR-6; and (2) support legislative efforts in support of nontraditional marriage.
Dr. Buffie would like the Indiana State Medical Association behind him when he testifies at the State House in 2013. He wants to show the legislators that there are public-health implications of same-sex marriage. To that end, I am asking for help.
Dr. Buffie said that constant discriminatory language from the government stigmatizes and causes Minority Stress. It internalizes prejudice for LGBT people and their families, and then angst and turmoil multiplies. When a particular group of people is being discriminated against, they run the risk of developing various emotional, mental and physical problems. Minority Stress causes a cycle of shame, fear and self-loathing. This in turn causes anxiety and depression. This group of people also has a higher risk of depression, anxiety, suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse, and sexual promiscuity. In addition, the physical problems can include cancer and AIDS.
Yale University did a study on the states that have bans on same-sex marriage. In states where there are bans, there is more alcohol abuse, and anxiety and depression have sky-rocketed. In the states where same-sex marriage is legal, there has been no increase in their behaviors. We need to remember, however, that these behaviors are not inherent due to being gay - they are due to Minority Stress. Marriage equality does make a difference - being in a legal and socially-validated relationship equals better health.
In 2005, when members of the Marion County City-Council in Indianapolis were considering a human rights ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity, the Indianapolis PFLAG chapter gathered family stories and presented them to the council members. Now we're asking LGBT Hoosiers to send us your personal stories that we can send to the Indiana State Medical Association describing how you and your families had been impacted by discrimination.
It can include the emotional and physical effects of bullying and of what it was like for you when you were still in the closet. The story needs to take up one page or less - anything more probably won't be read. We're going to gather all the stories, put them in a book, and present them to the ISMA. We might possibly, in the future, also present these stories to the Indiana State legislators.
You can send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. We don't have to include your name with your story if you would prefer to be anonymous.
Please contact me at the above e-mail address if you have any questions. Thank you!
Together we can beat HJR-6 in Indiana!