Same-sex and opposite-sex Australian couples will be able to access $200 worth of free relationship counseling from 1 July this year under a new Australian Government scheme but the Australian campaign for marriage equality says if the government is serious about keeping same-sex couples together it should just let them marry.
Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews made the announcement today to the Courier Mail, telling the newspaper, ‘The evidence shows that strong relationships between parents make a substantial difference to a child.’
‘Australian research also consistently finds that marriage and relationship education assists committed, married, engaged or cohabiting couples to move through the phases of their relationship with improved relationship skills, strengthening relationships for up to five years.’
However the scheme is just a trial for now, with its success to be evaluated after 12 months.
Marriage equality advocates welcomed the Australian Government’s inclusion of same-sex couples in the plan but said if the government was serious about keeping same-sex couples together it should allow them to marry.
‘We welcome the Government’s inclusion of same-sex couples in its voucher proposal, but if it is serious about encouraging commitment and resilience in same-sex relationships it should allow same-sex couples to marry,’ Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said.
‘The solid legal foundation, social recognition and removal of stigma that all come with marriage equality would do far more to benefit same-sex couples than a $200 voucher.
‘We call on the Abbott Government to allow a conscience vote on marriage equality in line with the Coalition’s objective of strengthening relationships and families.’
Croome said he was also concerned that so many relationship counseling services were operated by religious groups who could legally discriminate against same-sex couples under national laws.
‘Many relationship counseling services are faith-based and have anti-discrimination exemptions which allow them to legally turn away same-sex couples,’ Croome said.
‘If the Government can give out counseling vouchers without discriminating, it should change the law to ensure the delivery of faith-based counseling services is based on the same principle.’