Bush pushes marriage plan on campaign trail in Ohio

.- President George W. Bush promoted his Healthy Marriage Initiative yesterday while on his campaign fundraising trail through Ohio. The $1.5-billion program proposes to offer premarital counseling to parents on welfare.

The Healthy Marriage Initiative, which was reportedly developed in consultation with conservative family groups, would provide grants to states, faith-based organizations and community-based groups to teach people what it means to be in a successful marriage. It links healthy marriages to reducing drug use and other social problems.

The program is part of welfare reform legislation stalled in the Senate. 

"I think one of the smartest things we can do is to encourage families," Bush told supporters at an alcohol and drug addiction services center yesterday, reported The Associated Press. About 40 protesters were outside.

Critics say Bush’s program has the potential to discriminate against single women and pressure some into abusive marriages. Gay-rights activists criticize Bush for proposing a program for heterosexual couples while advocating a ban on same-sex marriages, reported the AP.

Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry campaigned in Ohio last week. He promoted a federal program that would keep schools open until early evening to help working parents, reported the AP. Kerry also raised $2 million at two events in Cincinnati and Columbus.

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