Labor MPs and gay rights advocates have slammed claims by Queensland Nationals Senator Ron Boswell that same-sex marriage would be a “severe attack” on families.

Federal senators began the debate on the Marriage Amendment Bill (No.2) 2012 on Monday.

Boswell told the Senate yesterday that once same-sex marriage was law, it would force the normalisation of homosexual behaviour on the wider culture.

“I cannot imagine a more severe attack on the family than undermining marriage,” Boswell said.

He said people had not thought same-sex marriage through and that it would hurt society.

The senator said there would be significant harm if same-sex marriage was legalised, including abolishing a child’s birthright to a mother and a father.

“Two mothers or two fathers cannot raise a child properly,” he said.

“Who takes a boy to football? Who tells him what is right from wrong? What does he do – go along with the two mums? How does he go camping and fishing?… It is defying nature.”

The senator also said that if gay marriage was allowed, then children would be forced to learn about it in schools.

“Once you legalise something, you cannot discriminate against it,” he said.

“Do you want your children to go into classrooms that give equal weight to heterosexuals and homosexuals?”

Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Alex Greenwich told the Star Observer that Boswell’s comments were nasty and predictable.

“We’re now use to that kind of misinformation and alarmism from opponents of reform,” Greenwich said.

“We welcome the fact a majority of Australians reject that type of prejudice that he’s peddling.”

Labor Senators Penny Wong and Doug Cameron have also criticised Boswell’s views as reminiscent of the 1950s.

“These dinosaur views are about gays have no place in modern political discourse,” Cameron told a press conference.

Finance Minister Penny Wong told the ABC many aspects of his speech were quite prejudiced.

“Well, we are normal Ron, and we’re here. I think it is really unfortunate that, for some people in this debate, that has become the level of the discussion,” Wong said.

Greenwich said there were lots of older Australians who understood that this reform was important to their grandchildren and younger family members.

“I wouldn’t associate his views with something that was generational,” he said.

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