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Gay rights advocates get good news from unusual sources: Salt Lake City and the AMA

November 11, 2009 |  1:46 pm

Gay rights in Utah 
Gay rights advocates were disappointed last week when Maine voters voted to repeal a state law allowing same-sex marriage. But they got a boost on Tuesday from two unlikely sources: the American Medical Assn. and the Salt Lake City Council. 

At its semiannual meeting in Houston, the nation's largest doctors' group voted to oppose the military's "don't ask, don't tell' policy because it sometimes restricts the "honesty and openness . . . that is the basis of the patient-physician relationship."

The AMA also reported that same-sex couples excluded from civil marriage often do not have access to the same healthcare benefits that married couples do.  

Same-sex households are less likely to have health insurance than their married counterparts and are therefore at a higher risk of "living sicker and dying younger," said Dr. Peter Carmel, an AMA board member. The AMA said the disparity is also linked to a basic fact: Same-sex families aren't eligible to receive other benefits afforded to married couples, including tax breaks and Social Security survivor benefits.

The group resolved to "work to reduce the health disparities suffered because of unequal treatment . . . by supporting equality in laws affecting healthcare of members in same-sex partner households and their dependent children."

In Utah, the Salt Lake City Council passed two ordinances making it illegal to discriminate against gays in housing and employment. As the Ticket reported last week, voters in Kalamazoo approved a similar ordinance that grants anti-discrimination protections to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals.

Significantly, the ordinances in Salt Lake City were endorsed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is the same Mormon Church that strongly urged members to contribute money to the campaign in support of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California.

Mormons were credited with playing a strong role in the measure's victory in Salt Lake City.

Have the Mormon's had a change of heart?

No, said Michael Otterson, a church spokesman. He told the City Council that the church "remains unequivocally committed" to opposing gay marriage.

-- Kate Linthicum

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Photo: A car flies the gay pride flag in protest past the Mormon Conference Center during the 179th Semi-Annual General Conference of the Mormon Church on Oct. 3 in Salt Lake City. Credit: Getty Images