A Christian leader in Australia claims smoking is a healthier lifestyle than gay marriage.
Jim Wallace, head of the Australian Christian Lobby, told the audience at a debate on marriage equality today (5 September), that statistics showed gay people were less healthy than smokers.
'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,' Wallace said at the discussion with Greens leader Christine Milne at the University of Tasmania.
'The life of smokers is reduced by something like seven to 10 years and yet we tell all our kids at school they shouldn't smoke.'
He added that people should be aware of the 'problems' which come with living as a homosexual and warned of the consequences of same-sex marriage in 'encouraging' people to be gay.
'Where gay marriage has been introduced, or civil unions, it hasn't changed the level of suicide,' Wallace said on how same-sex partnerships around the world hasn't reduced the dangers of being gay.
'We have to accept the unfortunate levels of suicide, the unfortunate levels of excessive drug use (are) because of the nature of the lifestyle.
'I am very sorry for that. My heart goes out to those people. But it is a fact.'
However, Senator Milne responded by claiming discrimination is the root cause of health problems in the gay community.
'What I know is that the mental health issues for young gay people particularly are certainly increased when discrimination occurs,' reported The Age newspaper.
After she accused the ACL of homophobia, Wallace fought back claiming the Greens cared more about trees than children and blasted gay activists for 'bullying' over the issue of gay marriage.
Marriage equality advocates have called on Wallace to apologize for his comments.
Australian Marriage Equality national convener, Alex Greenwich, said: 'Jim Wallace has made it clear that the Christian Lobby is basing their campaign against equality on fear rather than facts.
'To salvage what limited creditably he has left, Mr Wallace should apologize for the damage that such extreme comments would have on vulnerable gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex young people.'
Mr Greenwich said the Prime Minister should seriously reconsider giving the key note address at the Australian Christian Lobby conference in October.
'For the sake of the many proud LGBTI members of the Labor Party, the Prime Minister should seriously reconsider giving this increasingly extreme group any credibility'