03/06/2013 10:49 am ET Updated May 06, 2013

Doctors' Orders: Let Gay People Marry -- It's a Healthy Thing to Do

Way back in 2004, I received a semi-urgent request from then-Mayor Gavin Newsom that I show up down at San Francisco's City Hall to help preside over an expected onslaught of weddings. Happy to serve if needed, I showed up as requested. As it turned out, there were plenty of others willing to so "officiate" and my services were not required -- but I'll never forget what I witnessed that day. Dozens of same-sex couples were weeping with joy at their new-found ability to be legally married. A crusty old guy standing next to me, who looked like an extra in a 1930s gangster flick, turned to me at one point and said "____, this is _____ beautiful!"

He was right. I've cleaned up his quote because this is a "family" issue. As it turns out, according to much evidence, being part of a family can be a very healthy thing -- straight or gay. And now no less than the American Medical Association has officially opined on the issue, in filing a brief supporting the overturning of California's Proposition 8 -- which banned gay marriage after a tight political campaign which played on people's fears and prejudices.

You can read the AMA's new statement here, but the basis for their policy came from, yes, the California Medical Association. At their annual meeting in Sacramento last October, the following statement was adopted by the CMA's House of Delegates -- elected doctors from all over the state:

Resolved #1 - That CMA support efforts to reduce health care disparities among members of same-sex households including minor children;

Resolved #2 - That CMA support measures providing same-sex households with the same rights and privileges to health care, health insurance, and survivor benefits afforded to opposite-sex households;

Resolved #3 - That CMA recognize that denying civil marriage contributes to poorer health outcomes for gay and lesbian individuals, couples and their families.

So there it is -- doctors' orders. The traditionally conservative and oft-contentious CMA delegates saw little to debate in this proposal -- as, it now turns out, did the AMA. Policies adopted at the CMA and AMA must be based on at least two things -- scientific evidence, and the ethics of medicine and healthcare. There are parallels here with the contraception issue, which I've written about here -- the medical consensus is strong, but the opposition, undeniably, come from religious, mostly Catholic, perspectives. If religious conviction had been somehow removed from the whole debate, Proposition 8 would likely have vanished without much trace. However, in this country, such views are not supposed to be enshrined in laws that infringe upon the freedoms of others. Some of my best friends are Catholic -- seriously -- but as with contraception, they seem to be able to see that the official Church position does quite not reflect modern values, practices -- or medical opinion (and of course, in these "family values" arenas, the Church has its own "issues," but we'll leave that be for now).

The AMA joins an ever-growing list of -- well, every kind of person, including not just President Obama but even conservative Republicans who seem to understand what "freedom" and "separation of church and state" really mean, at least sometimes. Now it will be up to the Supreme Court, and we'll see if they understand something about that as well.