A Further Perspective

AMA: Marriage Is the Cure

But only in the case of gay marriage.

By 11.18.09

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The American Medical Association has approved a resolution that has the thinnest veneer of science to cloak its pro-gay marriage agenda.

At its mid-year meeting last week, the good doctors considered a report from their Council on Science and Public Health ("Health Care Disparities in Same-Sex Households," Report I-09) and adopted a recommendation based on the report. We should first observe that the AMA states that, after the AMA formally accepted the report and voted a resolution on a recommendation made based on the report, the report is being submitted for publication by a peer-reviewed journal. One would think that the report should have been peer-reviewed before the AMA voted on it. Or, perhaps one would assume that the AMA itself constitutes a body of peers and has already given its review and imprimatur. Can a peer-reviewed journal now reject the report? Or change it in any way other than footnote citations?

Be that as it may, the AMA teaches us that (1) the health of adults and children may suffer if they do not have health insurance; (2) because gay couples are not allowed to marry, they and their children may not have health insurance; and (3) therefore, federal and state laws must change to allow gay couples to marry to improve their health and the health of their children. So, the AMA says marriage is the cure to lack of insurance.

The AMA report's Executive Summary (the only portion publicly accessible until publication) estimates that 1% of all households in the U.S. are same-sex households. This 1% includes both insured and uninsured households. Although the Executive Summary does not give a numerical split, we know that many same-sex households are insured by employers who cover domestic partners who are not married. The Human Rights Campaign webpage touts this. So, same-sex households can obtain insurance coverage from many employers without changing the laws of marriage. It is peculiar that, while we are consistently reminded that there are thirty million-plus American residents who lack health insurance, the AMA would focus on such a very, very small subset of the uninsured.

Nonetheless, we can agree with the Executive Summary that "[m]arriage is a strong predictor of health insurance…" Indeed, marriage and family life are strong predictors of health and well-being, of happiness, of longevity, of good education, of employment with health benefits, and of wealth creation (which in turn can pay for health insurance and/or health bills). Conversely, divorce and single parenthood are strong predictors of poverty, of lack of education, of shortened lifespan, of prison, of unemployment, of employment without health benefits, and of drug and alcohol abuse. Accordingly, if the AMA were less focused on its gay agenda, it might look at the various categories of people who are uninsured and recommend to them that they marry and remain married and recommend to all levels of government that they adopt strong pro-marriage policies. 

The AMA might look at another category of uninsured people as well. If marriage is the cure to the lack of insurance for same-sex couples who are legally barred from getting married, then the AMA must surely regard marriage as the cure for other people in committed relationships who are legally barred from getting married. Thus, if an insured person is caring for an adult child or an aunt or an uncle or a cousin or a niece or a nephew who is uninsured, then the AMA should recommend that the law be changed to allow them to marry in order to obtain insurance coverage and improve their health.

If we are to allow gay couples to enter into domestic partnerships or marriage itself, then laws providing for civil unions and gay marriage, and employers providing benefits to their employees, should not discriminate against close kin. If gay couples can marry, then close kin must be given equal treatment -- under law and by employers.

A reason that may be used to justify such discrimination is the sexual taboo against the marriage of close kin. But marriage law does not require sexual relations or romantic love between partners to a marriage. Please see my piece on these pages two years ago. Furthermore, even the cultural tie between romantic love and marriage in Western civilization is a fairly recent one. Consider the tune "Do You Love Me?" in Fiddler on the Roof.

Yet we have lawyers and judges and governors and doctors and legislators who say love is -- now, in America in this decade -- a sufficient condition to marry. For example, in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, lawyer David Boies argued, "The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the right to marry the person you love is so fundamental that states cannot abridge it" (italics added). In deciding to sign same-sex marriage legislation, Maine Governor John Baldacci told the press that listening to Maine residents was "very emotional, very much a sort of baring of the soul that you're listening to and going through yourself."

If you're not gay, but a committed, caring relative, there is no evidence that the AMA and David Boies and Governor Baldacci are sympathetic to the plight of your loved one who is without insurance coverage.  

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About the Author
James M. Thunder is a Washington, D.C. attorney.