THE Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, has backed controversial comments by the Australian Christian Lobby head, Jim Wallace, that suggested a homosexual ‘‘lifestyle’’ was more hazardous to health than smoking.
Asked to repudiate Mr Wallace’s comments on ABC TV’s Q&A last night, Dr Jensen said: ‘‘I am generally supportive of ACL.’’
Dr Jensen said while he did not agree with everything ACL leaders said, Mr Wallace had ‘‘given us an opportunity to talk about something significant, namely the question of health risk’’.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, pulled out of speaking at the Christian lobby’s national conference in response to Mr Wallace’s comments last week, which she described as ‘‘offensive’’ and ‘‘heartless’’.
But Dr Jensen said: ‘‘It’s very hard to get to the facts here because we don’t want to talk about it, and in this country censorship is alive and well.
‘‘As far as I can see ... the lifespan of practising gays is significantly shorter than the ordinary so-called heterosexual man ... what we need to do is to look at why this may be the case and we need to do it in a compassionate and objective way.’’
The chief government whip, Joel Fitzgibbon, dismissed same-sex marriage as an ‘‘11th order issue’’ as a fourth bill to legalise gay marriage was introduced to Parliament yesterday. The latest bill, co-sponsored by the Labor senators Trish Crossin, Gavin Marshall, Louise Pratt and Carol Brown, is expected to be debated and voted on next week.
Senator Crossin said the Labor senators had introduced their bill because they wanted to see the issue debated in the Senate, and were pessimistic about the chances of the bill, introduced by the Labor backbencher Stephen Jones, passing the House of Representatives.
Gay marriage campaigners would like to see the issue voted on first in the Senate, where there is more support for change.
While campaigners are hopeful a majority of senators could be gathered from Green senators and sympathetic Labor senators, crossbenchers and coalition backbenchers, Senator Crossin admitted change was unlikely unless the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, granted Coalition MPs a free vote on the issue.
‘‘If Coalition members have their hands tied behind their backs, it’s going to be very difficult,’’ she said.
Debating Mr Jones’s bill yesterday, the Coalition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull said he would vote for same-sex marriage if given a conscience vote. But he said because Coalition MPs did not have a free vote on the issue, he would abide by the Coalition position to vote against change.
Mr Turnbull said there was not enough support in the Parliament for same-sex marriage, but added: ‘‘I am sure the numbers will be there in due course.’’
He said in the meantime, Parliament could legislate for civil unions. The convener of Australian Marriage Equality, Alex Greenwich, said civil unions were a ‘‘second-class form of recognition’’ and countries such as New Zealand and Britain that had introduced them were now moving towards same-sex marriage laws.
He also accused Mr Fitzgibbon of being ‘‘out of touch’’ for describing gay marriage as an ‘‘11th order issue’’.
‘‘I don’t think it matters much to our society quite frankly whether same-sex couples marry or not,’’ Mr Fitzgibbon said.
Mr Greenwich said it was ‘‘upsetting’’ Mr Fitzgibbon had dismissed an issue that was ‘‘more passionately supported by the public than any other that the Parliament is currently dealing with’’.