The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney has caused offence by backing comments that smoking is better for your health than being gay said by head of Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) last week.
Archbishop Peter Jensen was asked about the controversial comments during last night's Q&A political discussion program on ABC TV.
‘I am generally supportive of ACL, I have to say,’ Jensen said. ‘Rightly or wrongly he [Head of ACL Jim Wallace] has given us an opportunity to talk about something significant, namely the question of health risks.’
'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.’
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Wallace’s comments were ‘heartless and wrong’ and cancelled her keynote appearance at ACL’s annual conference.
Jensen’s comments sparked a frenzied Twitter debate with most criticising him for ‘ignorance’. LGBT rights advocate Professor Kerryn Phelps tweeted: ‘Peter Jensen missed the opportunity to show real spiritual leadership by distancing Anglicans from ACL extremism’.
Australian Marriage Equality national convener Alex Greenwich released a statement saying the Archbishop had ‘lost his moral bearings’.
‘Peter Jensen must apologize to gay and lesbian Australians, and their families, for using his platform to promote factually wrong, immoral and cruel anti-gay propaganda,’ said Greenwich.
‘The majority of Australians will be particularly concerned that Archbishop Jensen appears to accept that gay suicides are "collateral damage" in the pursuit of his anti-gay agenda. By accepting that suicides will result from his actions, the Archbishop has lost his moral bearings and authority.’
Labor Senator Trish Crossin told reporters this morning that the comments were offensive ‘particularly for people who have smoked, who have developed cancer as a result of that, and loved ones who have lost families’.
Senator Crossin was speaking as she launched another private bill legislating to legalize same-sex marriage with fellow Labor senators Gavin Marshall, Louise Pratt and Carol Brown.
The senators introduced the bill following a debate in the lower House of Representatives of another same-sex marriage bill yesterday that suggested it would not be passed. Senator Crossin said they had introduced their bill in the Senate because there is more support for gay marriage there than in the lower house.