Gay marriage opponents held a rally in Canberra today to condemn marriage equality.

The ‘National Day for Marriage’ rally, organised by the Australian Christian Lobby, heard from a number of speakers, including MPs, who claimed that gay marriage is “selfish”, will “destroy marriage” and could give rights to paedophiles.

Around 500 people joined the event at Parliament House.

Conservative American commentator Rebecca Hagelin reportedly claimed that gay marriage would lead to paedophiles marrying children. Conference organisers have been asked to condemn her statements.

The Australian reports that Ms Hagelin added that there is “no greater evil” than gay marriage supporters and that Christians are in a “war for the future of the human race”.

Bob Katter of Katter’s Australian Party said gay marriage was a “joke” and also claimed that Christians should reclaim the word ‘gay’.

He said: “Gay is one of the most beautiful words … no-one should have the right to take that word off us.

“Truly this proposition deserves to be laughed at and ridiculed. It doesn’t serve any serious treatment.”

Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said his four daughters could be prevented from marrying if gay marriage is legalised.

He said: “We know that the best protection for those girls is that they get themselves into a secure relationship with a loving husband, and I want that to happen for them.

“I don’t want any legislator to take that right away from me.”

Today also saw the release of a poll which says that just over half of Christians want gay couples to be given the right to marry.

The Galaxy poll, commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality, concluded that 53 per cent of Australians who identify as Christians support same-sex marriage, while 41 per cent are opposed.

Australian Marriage Equality spokesman Malcolm McPherson said: “Christian groups that oppose marriage equality like the Australian Christian Lobby are entitled to their view, but they do not represent the majority of Australian Christians.

“Clearly, most Australian Christians believe same-sex marriage is consistent with Christian values like justice, love, compassion and fidelity, not opposed to these values.”