Pressure for the Prime Minister to withdraw from speaking at the conference intensified yesterday when ACL leader Jim Wallace compared gay marriage and the health risk of smoking. The Prime Minister described the comments ‘offensive’.
In a statement the Prime Minister said,
‘There are a range of deeply held views in the community on the issue of same-sex marriage but it is the responsibility of all parties in this debate to be respectful and responsible in any public comments they make.
‘I believe yesterday’s comments by Jim Wallace were offensive.
‘To compare the health effects of smoking cigarettes with the many struggles gay and lesbian Australians endure in contemporary society is heartless and wrong.
‘Although everyone is entitled to their own view, these statements reiterated again today on behalf of ACL are totally unacceptable. In light of this, I believe my attendance at the conference would be inappropriate.’
This morning the ACL Director was standing by his comments and in a statement complained that gay activists were attempting to demonise and shut down an important debate. Mr Wallace said,
‘I was not comparing homosexuality with smoking at all. What I was saying is that on one hand we are vocal on our discouragement of people to smoke and on the other we are suppressing public dialogue about the health risks associated with homosexuality.
‘Instead of more free speech-suppressing vitriol and demonisation from the gay activists, there needs to be an open and honest debate before Parliament changes the definition of marriage.’
Mr Wallace argued that the community needed more information highlighting that there were health risks associated with a gay ‘lifestyle’.
‘We rightly warn of the health impacts of smoking. Surely we cannot allow these aggressive activists to conceal the facts of a lifestyle that accounts for over eighty percent of new HIV cases in Australia annually.
‘If we warn against smoking because it carries health dangers, we should also be warning young people in particular about activity which clearly carries health risks.’
Mr Wallace described the rates of suicide, depression and rug use in the homosexual community as tragic but argued that allowing marriage equality would do nothing to change these rates, and called for more focus on the real issues that cause the health problems.
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Mensline Australia 1300 78 99 78.
Comment was sought from the Australian Christian Lobby regarding the Prime Minister’s annoucement that she would not be appearing at their conference. No response was received at the time of publishing.