A federal candidate for the Liberal Party has apologised for comments he made in 2017 linking marriage equality to paedophilia.

Gurpal Singh, who is running for the Victorian seat of Scullin, called marriage equality “against nature” and said it was related to “an issue of paedophilia”.

After his comments resurfaced in the leadup to next month’s election, Singh apologised, the Sydney Morning Herald has reported.

“I apologise unreservedly for those comments,” he said.

“They were wrong and I am sorry.”

Singh had opposed the postal vote on marriage equality, speaking out at the time to call the decision “quite weak” and saying that the matter should have been resolved by a parliamentary vote.

Despite Singh’s apology, activists have pointed out the Liberal Party’s history of anti-LGBTI sentiment.

“Sadly, this isn’t the first time a Liberal candidate has expressed offensive and derogatory views about LGBTIQ people,” said Anna Brown, chief executive of Equality Australia and long-time marriage equality campaigner.

Brown said she held concerns that re-electing the current federal government could hold negative consequences for LGBTI people.

“Given that the Prime Minister himself proposed hostile amendments to the marriage equality bill, abstained from the vote after inflicting a national plebiscite on the LGBTIQ community and has used social media to attack the needs of trans people, we are concerned that a future Morrison government will see equality wound back for LGBTIQ people in the name of religious freedom,” she said.

Other conservative politicians have also been criticised for their comments against the LGBTI community.

In February, Australian Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi reiterated his past comments that marriage equality would lead to legalised bestiality and paedophilia.

The federal election will be held on May 18.

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