The American Medical Association voted yesterday to oppose bans on gay marriage and out gay personnel in the military.

According to the AMA, which is the nation’s largest collective of doctors, both bans promote health disparities. The meeting yesterday heard evidence on the issue based on statistics and physicians’ experience.

People who are not married are less likely to have health insurance and are more likely to suffer sickness and die younger.

An AMA council report presented at the meeting said that gay couples in many US states could not marry and were not eligible for tax breaks, spousal benefits and Social Security survivor benefits, all disparities which could arguably put health at risk.

Delegates also cited health issues around the ban on openly gay military personnel. The ban means gays and lesbians can serve in the armed forces but must not reveal their sexual orientation to colleagues, which includes medical professionals.

Associated Press reports that doctors who pushed for opposition to the gay ban said it had a “chilling effect” on communication between gays and their doctors.

Gay rights groups have welcomed the AMA’s stance, saying it will help bring about changes in legislation.

President Barack Obama has promised to end the military gay ban, otherwise known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but advocates have complained that change is taking too long.

He is said to be working with congressional leaders to repeal the Clinton-era law.

He also criticised the Defence of Marriage Act in his election campaign. This bars gay couples from receiving federal benefits.