American Medical Assn. Takes Stands for LGBT Rights, Gun Control

Doctor and patient

At its annual policy-making meeting Tuesday, the American Medical Association adopted two pro-LGBT policies as well as a call for stricter gun laws.

Meeting in Chicago, AMA members endorsed the housing of transgender prison and jail inmates in facilities that reflect their affirmed gender, regardless of DNA or genitalia. They also urged that family and medical leave laws be applied with an inclusive definition of family, including LGBT-led families.

“The problem facing the safety and health of transgender prisoners is severe and well documented,” said AMA immediate past chair Patrice A. Harris, MD, in a press release. “Transgender prisoners are disproportionately the victims of sexual assault, suffering higher rates of sexual assault than general population inmates. The new AMA policy acknowledges that the increased rate of violence largely stems from transgender prisoners being housed based on their birth sex, and not according to their affirmed gender.”

One study cited by the AMA indicated that 34 percent of transgender prisoners are victims of rape, harassment, or physical violence, as opposed to 10 percent of the general population. Another showed that 59 percent of trans prisoners suffer sexual assault, compared with 4.4 percent of the overall prison population, and another indicated that 75 percent of trans prisoners in California had beem sexually assaulted.

The AMA added that administrative segregation, which is similar to solitary confinement, is not appropriate for transgender inmates. “Such confinement acts as further punishment by removing prisoners from the companionship of others, denying prisoners access to prison programs, and is psychologically damaging,” the group’s release notes.

On family leave policies, the AMA called for them to apply to “any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” The federal Family and Medical Leave Act, it pointed out, requires employers with 50 or more employees to grant up to 12 weeks of unpaid annual leave to allow workers to care for a spouse, child, or parent (except in-laws) with a serious health condition, to take leave for personal health conditions, or to care for newly born or adopted children.

There are health benefits to be gained from applying the “blood or affinity” standard, is more inclusive of LGBT people. “A 2008 National Health Interview Survey indicated workers with paid leave are significantly more likely to see health care professionals and to receive preventive screenings,” its press release says. “In 2016, a study from the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry asserted that affirming the chosen family of LGBT individuals in family and medical leave policies improved mental well-being.”

The Human Rights Campaign praised these stances. “It is heartening that the American Medical Association continues to lead the way in endorsing policies that would improve the health outcomes of LGBTQ Americans,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, HRC senior vice president for programs, research, and training, in a press release. “These policies would allow transgender prisoners to be treated with dignity and respect while incarcerated, and help to expand LGBTQ-led families’ access to family and medical leave.”

Also Tuesday, which happened to be the second anniversary of the mass shooting at the Pulse LGBT nightclub in Orlando, the AMA vowed to push for several gun control measures. These include banning “the sale and ownership to the public of all assault-type weapons, bump stocks and related devices, high-capacity magazines, and armor piercing bullets,” according to AMA News.

Noting that gun violence has become a “public health crisis,” the group further intends to work for tougher background checks for gun purchases, expansion of restraining orders, improvements in data collection, and a ban on  the possession and use of firearms and ammunition by unsupervised people under the age of 21. It will oppose the arming of teachers and urge that schools remain gun-free zones.

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