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Marriage equality is a health issue

Posted by Dr. Suzanne Koven  March 27, 2013 06:42 AM

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marriage equality.jpg The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is going to be getting a lot of mail.

Last week, the nation's leading organization of health professionals who care for children endorsed marriage rights for same sex couples because studies show that marriage benefits the children of these couples.

The announcement came just days before the U.S. Supreme Court was to hear two cases involving marriage equality: one regarding Proposition 8, California's ban on same sex marriage, and one regarding the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Some will write to the AAP expressing gratitude for their recognition of the thousands of families headed by same-sex couples already raising children--40,000 children in California alone, as Justice Anthony Kennedy noted during arguments in the Proposition 8 case.

Some, such as the American Family Association, will fault the AAP for holding immoral views and for advocating the weakening of marriage, families, and society.

And many will argue that doctors and other health professionals have no business weighing in on "social issues" at all. I have received this feedback myself when I've written about marriage equality, gun control, and obesity.

The fact is, if you look at the list of top causes of death in the U.S.--which includes heart disease, cancer, diabetes, accidents, and suicide--it's impossible to separate health from "social issues" such as food and environmental policies, gun laws, and legislation affecting the psychological and economic security of individuals and their families.

The idea that nurses and doctors should ignore these issues, keep quiet, and simply dole out medications when people get sick, injured, and mentally ill is unrealistic--and it's bad medicine.

illustration: Dan Page for the Boston Globe

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Suzanne Koven, M.D. practices internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She writes a monthly column for the Globe's G Health section and her essays have appeared in the More »


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