"Yes, there are health problems in parts of the gay and lesbian community, but they are caused by the prejudice of people like Mr Wallace and the discriminatory laws he defends.” Rodney Croome
Head of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Jim Wallace debated same-sex marriage with Senator Christine Milne at the University of Tasmania. Wallace used health statistics to back up his argument against redefining marriage to include gender-segregated couples.
The Age reports:
"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," he told the audience.
"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."
"But what I'm saying is we need to be aware that the homosexual lifestyle carries these problems and ... normalising the lifestyle by the attribution of marriage, for instance, has to be considered in what it does encouraging people into it," he said.
Mr Wallace said legalising same-sex marriage in other countries had not reduced risk factors for gay people.
"Where gay marriage has been introduced, or civil unions, it hasn't changed the level of suicide," he said.
Greens leader Milne countered by blaming discrimination, rather than the homosexual lifestyle.
"What I know is that the mental health issues for young gay people particularly are certainly increased when discrimination occurs," she told reporters.
Mr Wallace accused the Greens of demonising churches with "hate language" and caring more for trees than children.
He described gay activism as "bullying" and said a climate had been created for "legislation by fatigue".
Tasmanian marriage equality advocates said the ACL was using outdated figures from a survey of obituaries in San Francisco newspapers at the height of the AIDS crisis.
"Yes, there are health problems in parts of the gay and lesbian community, but they are caused by the prejudice of people like Mr Wallace and the discriminatory laws he defends," Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said in a statement.
In 2009, gay rights activists in Canada sought funding for health care citing the increased health risks for homosexuals.
- The life expectancy for gay and bisexual men is 20 years less than the average Canadian man- GLB people commit suicide at rates ranging from twice as often to almost 14 times more than the general population- GLBs have smoking rates ranging from 1.3 to three times higher than average