The first openly gay cabinet minister in Australia has claimed that she has suffered discrimination but refused to support gay marriage.
Penny Wong, the Labor climate change minister told ABC television: “By virtue of who I am, prejudice and discrimination are things I have firsthand knowledge of.
“When I entered the parliament, I did actually think very carefully about how to handle being Asian and gay and in the parliament, because it hadn’t been done before.”
Ms Wong, who has been in a relationship with Sophie Allouache for a number of years, refused to support gay marriage.
When asked if she would support the introduction of marriage equality, Ms Wong said: “I’ve made quite a number of comments on this (gay marriage) issue.
“I appreciate your interest, but I’m here today to talk about using water wisely here in Western Australia.”
When asked a similar question by Channel Ten television she said: “On the issue of marriage, I think the reality is there is a cultural, religious and historical view around that which we have to respect.”
“The party’s position is very clear and that is an institution between a man a woman,” she said. Adding: “I do respect the fact that’s how people view the institution.”
In 2008, Ms Wong did steer through legislation that guaranteed same sex couples equal rights in regards to taxation, healthcare and retirement benefits.
Fellow Labor politican, Steven Lewis who is fighting the seat of Wentworth told his local newspaper, the Wentworth Courier: “My personal view is that I support gay marriage.”
“I believe that those who are in a loving relationship of the same sex should have the same rights as heterosexual couples.
“I understand that this view might not be shared by the majority of the people of Australia, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work towards achieving that goal.”
Another Labor party politician, Steven Hurd said: “We know the current Labor Party position is not too supportive… If I were to be elected to parliament, I would advocate a free vote – a conscience vote on gay marriage and I would support it, because I don’t see the point in creating all this legislation to remove discrimination and then stopping short of allowing the same rights to marry as straight people.
“This is about love, and giving love dignity.” Unfortunately for gay marriage advocates, Mr Hurd is unlikely to become a member of the Senate as he is fighting the safe Liberal seat of Kooyong, Melbourne.
Party leader and current Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard declared her opposition to gay marriage in one of her first interviews after assuming office. She told the Austereo Show: “We believe the marriage act is appropriate in its current form, which is recognising that marriage is between a man and a woman, but we have as a government taken steps to equalise treatment for gay couples.”
Same sex domestic partnership ceremonies are available in New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia. Civil partnerships along the British model are available in the Australian Capital Territory.