The Chief Executive of Barnardo’s, Anne Marie Carrie, has welcomed the government’s decision to allow gay couples to marry from 2013. Writing for PinkNews.co.uk, she says it will be of enormous benefit to gay parents and their children.

Amid the debate around equal marriage rights for gay couples, very little has been said about the importance of this move for children and young people.

On Father’s Day, Barnardo’s announced it supported gay marriage. This won’t have come as a surprise to anyone who was aware of our campaign to have more gay couples come forward as foster carers or adoptive parents. Equality and respect are at the very heart of Barnardo’s basis and values because we believe every person is different but equal.

And throughout this debate, I have been saddened that so little attention has given to some very important people: the children and young people who live with gay parents or carers. We work with some wonderful same-sex couples who offer stable and loving homes to children and young people, and I believe offering those couples the right to marry would help them and their children feel even more accepted and included.

Because, for me, this debate touches on two very important issues – homophobic bullying of young people, and Barnardo’s efforts to find loving homes for vulnerable children. Equalisation of marriage could have a big impact in both of these areas, and that is why I am speaking up again.

Barnardo’s works with 200,000 vulnerable young people every year, and many of the young gay people we work with have told us that homophobic bullying is a major concern for them. Equalising marriage will not solve this problem, but it will contribute towards a society in which sexual orientation is not a barrier to acceptance for young people.

Equalising marriage will also send a message to potential gay parents and carers, that if they want to start a family they will have the same options for legal recognition as heterosexual couples. Barnardo’s leads in encouraging people of all orientations to consider becoming adopters or foster carers. When the number of children being taken into care is growing, it’s not just right that we do this but vital.

I feel it is difficult for schools or, indeed, the government to promote genuine equality for gay couples when the law makes an unnecessary distinction between them and heterosexual couples. As the debate rumbles on, I hope more consideration will be given to the UK’s gay parents and carers and, of course, their children. Because the current law on marriage doesn’t just discriminate against couples but entire families.

Anne Marie Carrie is the chief executive of Barnardo’s, the UK’s largest children’s charity.