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The government’s $200 marriage counseling voucher scheme for newlyweds is going ahead from July 1.
And we’re told same-sex couple can also apply – even though they are not eligible to actually marry.
The voucher will be able to be used for relationship education and counselling, including parenting education, conflict resolution and financial management education.
The scheme was first mentioned back in August 2013, as a pre-election promise to the right-wing Australian Christian Lobby fringe group. It’s designed to help keep families together, but sparked concern among marriage equality advocates who feared the Liberal Party were not only voting against same-sex marriages, but also planning to reward opposite-sex marriages with special and costly attention.
However, when the $200 marriage voucher scheme starts in July, we’re now told same-sex couples will also be able to apply.
“Marriage equality would do far more to benefit same-sex couples than a $200 voucher.”
Social Services Minister Kevin Andrewssays the scheme, which is estimated to cost $230 million in its first trial year, will create more relationship stability, and therefore a better environment for children.
Marriage equality advocates have welcomed the Federal Government’s inclusion of same-sex couples in the plan, but say if those in power are serious about keeping same-sex couples together, they should allow them to marry.
“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,” says Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome.
“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 is also concerned that anti-discrimination exemptions for faith-based counselling services should be reviewed in light of the Government’s non-discriminatory voucher proposal.
“Many relationship counselling services are faith-based and have anti-discrimination exemptions which allow them to legally turn away same-sex couples.”
“If the Government can give out counselling vouchers without discriminating, it should change the law to ensure the delivery of faith-based counselling services is based on the same principle.”
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