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American Medical Association Joins Efforts to Repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and Voices Concerns Over Same-Sex Marriage Bans

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)  The American Medical Association (AMA) yesterday voted to join efforts to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and officially recognized that bans on civil marriage may lead to health care disparities for same-sex couples and their families.  With overwhelming support from its membership and virtually no opposition, even from the uniformed services representatives in attendance, the call for full repeal became official AMA policy upon passage of the resolution.
The issue before the AMA was the chilling effect that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has on the provider-patient relationship and the resulting impact on access to quality healthcare for many active duty troops. Military medical providers can and have been compelled to divulge personal information about patients to military commanders, resulting in the widespread perception among troops that medical confidentiality in the military is non-existent.

“The American Medical Association took a principled stance against a law that clearly has a negative impact on military healthcare, military medical providers, and our troops,” said Alexander Nicholson, founder and Executive Director of Servicemembers United. “This is yet another nail in the coffin of the flawed and outdated ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law, and it should send a strong message to those who continue to blindly claim that this policy works.”

Servicemembers United has documented cases of troops suffering in silence or hesitating to seek treatment for potentially life-threatening conditions out of fear for their careers, as well as cases of troops leaving the military to get proper treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other combat-related injuries.

“The provider-patient relationship is sacrosanct in the practice of medicine and in the provision of healthcare,” said Dr. Alan M. Steinman, a retired Coast Guard Rear Admiral and a member of the Servicemembers United Policy Council. “Virtually all physicians can agree that nothing should impede open and honest communication between a patient and his or her doctor. In this way, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” threatens the lives and safety of our troops, and it often puts military health professionals in a moral and ethical dilemma.”
“We applaud yesterday’s announcement by the American Medical Association and could not agree more,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “The AMA also said that bans on marriage equality for same-sex couples often prevent those couples from obtaining health care benefits, such as insurance and medical leave. Such exclusions result in health disparities.  HRC shares the AMA’s belief that barriers to marriage equality have an array of negative implications for same-sex couples and their families, including substantial health disparities.  HRC welcomes the AMA’s concerns over health care disparities and encourages it to support laws that would fully and fairly recognize LGBT people and their families.”
“The ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ military ban is good for no one,” said Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “It is unhealthy for individuals and undermines the nation’s military readiness by discriminating against patriotic men and women who are ready, willing and able to serve their country.

“While opponents of marriage equality and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights try to stigmatize our relationships and limit our access to health benefits and other economic safety nets, the AMA is making it clear that these discriminatory policies pose significant, real-life threats to the health and well-being of thousands and thousands of people across the country.”