Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Vermont Mental Health Experts Support Gay Marriage - News-

Vermont Mental Health Experts Support Gay Marriage - News-

updated 8:48 a.m. ET, Wed., March. 11, 2009

BURLINGTON, Vt. - The Vermont chapters of four national mental health organizations say the best research suggests a range of benefits to children of same-sex parents granted equal access to civil marriage under state law.

The state Legislature begins hearings next Monday to consider whether to replace Vermont's civil union statute with one that offers gay couples the right to marry.

Dr. Jackie Weinstock, a UVM professor and psychologist, released the joint statement of support signed by the state chapter of the National Psychiatric Association, the Psychological Association, the Association of Mental Health Counselors and the Vermont chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

"What brings us here today," Weinstock said, "is a shared interest in the psychological well-being of all people." She said the groups want to "set the record straight" given what they said had been a "misinterpretation" of available scientific literature by marriage equality opponents.

"Research has shown children of same-sex couples are as likely as children of heterosexual parents to flourish," Weinstock said, adding "research shows same-sex parents are just as likely to provide healthy and supportive environments for children."

Representatives of the groups appearing with Weinstock at Monday's news conference said there had been "no dissent" on their boards before deciding to issue the joint statement.

Vermont law has allowed gay people to adopt children since 1993. In 2000, the Legislature created the nation's first civil union law though clinicians said children of gay couples still endure ridicule and emotional harm from societal elements because the government does not allow their parents equal treatment under the law.

Next week, Vermont House and Senate leaders open hearings, and plan preliminary votes, on granting full marriage equality.

Those for and against the legislation are expected to turn out in large numbers to weigh in on the question.

The leader of Vermont's Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Salvatore Matano, hopes to be there. Matano said children have a "natural right" to a mother and father, and said he feels a duty to speak "with great clarity and unambiguity" against the legislation, while recognizing the "sensitivity and divisiveness" of the issue.

Matano said the state's experience with civil unions has "certainly redefined the concept of marriage in Vermont, so that people see this as being the same as marriage."

Members of Vermont's religious community are expected to testify on Wednesday, March 18th, before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The speaker and Senate president scheduled a single public hearing on the bill that evening, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the House chamber at the Statehouse.

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