Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has cancelled her keynote speech at the Australian Christian Lobby conference after head Jim Wallace said yesterday that smoking is healthier than gay marriage.
‘I believe yesterday's comments by Jim Wallace were offensive,’ said the PM in a statement.
‘To compare the health effects of smoking cigarettes with the many struggles gay and lesbian Australians endure in contemporary society is heartless and wrong.’
Wallace made the comments at a debate on marriage equality at the University of Tasmania. He said:
'I think we're going to owe smokers a big apology when the homosexual community's own statistics for its health, which it presents when it wants more money for health, are that is has higher rates of drug-taking, of suicide, it has the life of a male reduced by up to 20 years.’
Leader of the Australian Greens party Senator Christine Milne, who opposed Wallace in the gay marriage debate, responded that discrimination is the root cause of health problems in the gay community. She said:
'What I know is that the mental health issues for young gay people particularly are certainly increased when discrimination occurs.'
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) announced in August that atheist Gillard would be the keynote speaker at their annual conference in October, compounding rumours that her opposition to gay marriage was the result of a political deal with them.
Australian Marriage Equality (AME), who decried Gillard’s planned appearance at the ACL conference as ‘completely inappropriate’, welcomed the news that she has cancelled her speech there.
‘We thank the Prime Minister for so strongly rejecting the extremism of the Australian Christian Lobby,’ said AME national convener Alex Greenwich.
‘Australians continue to reject the tone used by the Australian Christian Lobby in this debate. It's sad this organisation continues to misrepresent Christians and campaign on fear rather than facts.’