Prime Minister Julia Gillard has pulled out of speaking at the Australian Christian Lobby's national conference, after its leader suggested a homosexual "lifestyle" was more hazardous to health than smoking.
The lobby's managing director, Jim Wallace, made the claim in Tasmania yesterday during a debate on same-sex marriage.
His comments outraged gay rights activists, who called for Ms Gillard to distance herself from the group by withdrawing from its conference, which will be held in Canberra on October 5 and 6.
Ms Gillard today branded Mr Wallace's comment ''offensive'' and said she would not speak at the lobby's conference.
''To compare the health effects of smoking cigarettes with the many struggles gay and lesbian Australians endure in contemporary society is heartless and wrong,'' she said in a statement.
''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.
''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.''
Mr Wallace today issued a statement accusing gay activists of misrepresenting his views, but insisting a ''public dialogue about the health risks associated with homosexuality'' was being suppressed.
"It is disappointing that the Prime Minister has acted so hastily on the basis of misreporting and false information from gay activists," he said.
Mr Wallace later said that he "never said" smoking was healthier than gay marriage.
"My comments were much more nuanced," he told ABC Radio today.
"If we are to package ... gay lifestyle in with the heterosexual lifestyle in marriage, then we are ignoring the fact that it's not equal love, when the consequences of gay love, in health consequences, are quite pronounced and disastrous."
Mr Wallace said that he did not expect to speak to the Prime Minister about the matter but would talk to her staff.
Greens leader Christine Milne, who was at the debate with Mr Wallace yesterday, had been pushing for Ms Gillard to boycott the ACL conference.
"The Prime Minister should not be anywhere near the Australian Christian Lobby," Senator Milne told ABC Radio.
"They're a private company, they have no affiliation with churches and their whole focus is to attack the gay community."