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29 Nov 2010

Aussie minister Penny Wong's gay-marriage push gathers pace

Criticised in the past for declining to support gay marriage, Finance Minister Penny Wong – who’s Australia's first openly gay cabinet member – spoke in favour of a motion which calls on her party to support the legal right of same-sex couples to be married.

Senator Penny Wong, who is openly lesbian but had adhered to party policy by declining to publicly support same-sex marriage, broke ranks on Saturday by speaking in favour of a motion which passed by two votes (90 votes to 88).

Penny Wong, Minister for Finance and Deregulation and Senator for South Australia

The Senator was speaking at South Australia's state convention, where she had backed a South Australian branch move to get the Australian Labor Party (ALP) national conference to change their national platform to support the legal right of all couples to be marry.

Both Prime Minister and party leader Julia Gillard, and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott have said that marriage should be limited to unions between men and women.

Her comments add to a chorus of senior Labor figures supporting changing the Marriage Act to remove a requirement limiting marriage to members of the opposite sex.

"I will be advocating for our party to support equality including to in relation to marriage or same-sex couples and I do so because I have a deeply held commitment to equality," she was quoted as saying by the media.

"There has been some commentary which has confused my position of not commenting publicly on this issue with my position on the actual issue itself," she said. "I have had the opportunity to advocate for equality at the highest level of our party and within our party's processes as I do today. And I will do so again at the next national conference."

"I came to this country in the 1970s and like many in this room I do know what it is like to be the subject of prejudice," said the Malaysia-born Wong. "Like many in this room, my personal politics have been cast by the experience of discrimination and a deep belief in the principle of fairness."

Labor's national conference is due to be held early in 2011.


Reader's Comments

Comment #1 was deleted by its author on 2010-12-10 15:48
2. 2010-11-29 21:43  
Pity it took her so long to come on board...she certainly wasnt even close to being the first senior politician to see the light...such a shame for an open lesbian in politics... Still I suppose people are going to extrodinary lengths when they see the writing on the wall for their party...and finally wish to be remembered in history for being seen to do the right thing personally...;-P About time !!!
3. 2010-11-30 02:12  
She changes all the time. Do I trust her? No
4. 2010-11-30 02:12  
She changes all the time. Do I trust her? No
5. 2010-11-30 06:40  
maybe someone asked her to marry her, love sometimes comes a knocking

true love with whither away all opposition

6. 2010-11-30 06:45  
For those who want to read her full speech at the Labor Party conference, in Adelaide: http://bit.ly/gv7VRa
7. 2010-11-30 08:53  
I think we all knew that Penny Wong wanted to and would eventually support marriage equality and take this stance. It could always be seen in interviews and Q&A forums that she was 'torn' on this issue because of her party's stance.
We should know and not forget that she has fought hard for many other GLBT issues in the past.
Of course she can be "trusted" , she is openly one of us, has fought hard on our behalf before, and now supporting this issue, and for that, should be appreciated.
Comment edited on 2010-11-30 14:36:56
8. 2010-11-30 09:20  
Penny did the right thing. Well done.
9. 2010-11-30 09:27  
Go for it Penny. It's about time, but better late than ever.
10. 2010-11-30 10:15  
She's a gem set in a politics ring. Her success will only cast good lights on the glbt colors. I wish her the best in her calling and she'll always be wise, tempered, true & humble as she is now.
11. 2010-11-30 12:09  
I recall an interview not long ago where the reporter was asking Penny Wong if she believed in same sex marriage and she distinctly said "no" and proceeded to elaborate on the term "marriage" having cultural, religious connotations that were best left alone. She also affirmed that her stance was the same as her party's(Labor's) policy which is "marriage is between a man and a woman only". I really don't know why she suddenly decided to change her tune now. Politicians are full of crap!
12. 2010-11-30 14:03  
I don't think we should be so quick to judge Penny Wong on her previous ambivalence about gay marriage. At the time when Senator Wong was previously asked about her stance on gay marriage her party was under attack from many fronts. She obviously didn't wish to open up another battlefront. In politics one has to work behind the scenes long before achievements may be visible. At least her party equalised the practical aspects of gay partnerships with heterosexual de-facto relationships such as financial arrangements (eg superannuation survivor rights). I believe some 360 areas of inequality were removed from various federal laws in that exercise. The only thing left to do now is to enable gay marriage.
In the 11 years of Coalition rule in Australia, not one of the Coalition members of parliaments did anything. John Howard in fact followed George Bush and made sure that the Marriage Act in Australia specifically mention a man and a woman.
13. 2010-11-30 14:40  
to: 'hornet666' Well..even if your view that it is the case that she "changed her tune" about gay marriage isnt that a truly wonderful thing?

Thats what Politicians in a democratic country are there for. To represent their constituents.

So whether by pressure or conscience (and I suspect the latter has had a large bearing) Penny Wong has has decided to publicly speak out and take a stand on this issue.

Comment edited on 2010-11-30 15:56:24
14. 2010-11-30 15:14  
I largely agree with jupiter101's first comment post. Privately, Senator Wong has been a strong advocate of changes to the Marriage Act, but as a Minister within the Government, she has been very constrained by having to publicly support the party line. Within the party room, however, she has campaigned for the rights of the GLBT community. To have spoken out publicly on the issue, would have likely seen her lose her position in the Ministry and thus a strong voice for GLBT rights within Cabinet. As the South Australian branch of the Labor Party has now put forward a motion to change the Marriage Act in favour of same-sex couples, Senator Wong has been able to use a speech as part of that motion to express her true views and what she has all along been arguing inside the party room.
15. 2010-11-30 16:39  
Perhaps I was a little harsh on her but I certainly hope that she sticks to her agenda this time round and wish her all the best with it. Time will tell I suppose. And yes (to Jupiter101) it is a truly wonderful thing if this is carried through!
Just for the record I did manage to find the interview with her:-

16. 2010-12-01 05:08  
It is about time that Penny supported equal rights for our community. Until now she was happy to promote inequality and discrimination and so allow some within our community to be more equal than others, shame on her. Unfortunatley I believe that she is a political animal and goes where the votes and party line dictate and has little empathy for minority issues. Although a change for the good, it has been a change way too late. I would have expected a much more socially fair agenda from her party and have been greatly disappointed that they still promote the conservative views and agenda of the previous Howard government.
17. 2010-12-01 07:15  
I'm just amazed that you got a pic of her smiling and looking so relaxed!
18. 2010-12-01 08:06  
Some people are so incredibly forgiving of Labour politicians, and give them such an easy ride in the media when their stands are usually as unprincipled as their branch stacking and their other gangland activities to get elected to public office.

""There has been some commentary which has confused my position of not commenting publicly on this issue with my position on the actual issue itself," she said. "I have had the opportunity to advocate for equality at the highest level of our party and within our party's processes as I do today. And I will do so again at the next national conference."" More spin than a Breville mixer.

Anyone who spouts this shyte, like Kevin Rudd himself, is unfit to be trusted or to hold office.

Let's just get the benefits of full equality and civil union registration throughout the country, forget about the name you give the commitment. There's too much in names and buzzwords today. But let us also stay together when married, joined, united, registered or whatever you want to call it- so that we can show straights we are actually more faithful than they are.

19. 2010-12-08 16:28  
'marriage' what a yawning joke it's a flawed and discredited model, I doubt many homosexual men in Australia actually have fantasies of mincing down the aisle in their Vera Wangky cum stained 'white' gowns to tie the know, why the ' gay marriage lobby' here never manages to drum up support of more than a handful for their silly little street protests
Comment edited on 2010-12-08 16:30:46

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