Labour MP Angela Eagle has defended an Australian lesbian politician for publicly opposing equal marriage.

Ms Eagle, who was the only out lesbian in parliament until this year, said that Australian Labor politician Penny Wong should be commended for her previous record on gay rights.

Ms Wong provoked anger and accusations of “selling out” gay people when she said that religious and historical views of marriage should be respected.

Ms Eagle told DIVA magazine: “People need to give her credit for the work that’s already been done. She needs to be given credit for what she’s done on civil partnerships.”

She continued: “She seemed as dedicated to [gay] legal rights as was when I met her a few years ago and her record proves that.”

In 2008, Ms Wong did steer through legislation that guaranteed same-sex couples equal rights in regards to taxation, healthcare and retirement benefits.

Speaking to Channel Ten this week, 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. I do respect the fact that’s how people view the institution.”