Leading mental health organisations in Vermont, US, have come out in support of gay marriage, claiming it will validate relationships, increase benefits for the families and could reduce discrimination.

Civil unions for same-sex couples in Vermont were legalised in 2000.

Last week, lawmakers in the state pledged to push for passage of a gay marriage bill before the session ends in May, saying it is now time to end the “inequality” of existing laws.

WCAX.com reports that the Vermont Psychological Association, the Vermont Psychiatric Association, the Vermont Association of Mental Health Counselors, and the Vermont chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, all say legalising gay marriage would help the children of same-sex couples and provide happier families.

“We felt it was important for us to set the record straight about the scholarly literature in our field and we have lots of different families and the best thing to do for all children is to support parents the best way we can,” said Jackie Weinstein, of UVM Human Development & Families Studies.

The organisations will testify next week before a legislative panel at the Statehouse in support of the proposal.

Vermont couples in civil unions currently cannot collect Social Security benefits available to straight married couples and cannot access joint health insurance or make emergency medical decisions.