Senator Penny Wong may be one of the most senior members of the Australian Labor Party and the former leader of the Australian Senate, but says she could never be her party’s leader because there is still too much bigotry.
Wong, who was born in Malaysia to an Australian mother and a Malaysian Father has long been open about her sexuality and has two children with her partner Sophie Allouache.
While the South Australian senator is something of a trailblazer in Australian politics having been the first lesbian to enter the Australian parliament and the first Asian-born member of the Australian cabinet, Wong says leading her party would just be a step too far for her.
“There’s too much sexism and homophobia and racism in our society for me to want to expose myself to that, and my family,” Senator Wong said this week in an interview with Buzzfeed.
This discrimination, however, won’t stop Wong from continuing the fight for equal marriage rights in Australia – a political issue that Wong says she struggles with when trying to separate her personal feeling on the matter with the professional debate.
“I often say that I think the way in which this debate can affect people is just ignored by too many politicians,” Wong says.
“I have all of these years of political experience, all of this practice at political argument. I have a wonderful family, a rock-solid relationship, and I’m used to being in the public eye. And I still feel it. How is it for so many people?”
The standard of the debate in Australia surrounding same-sex marriage is also something that sticks in Wong’s craw.
“Let’s be really honest about who has been respectful and who hasn’t in this debate,” she says.
“Do the people arguing for equality ever diminish the relationships of heterosexuals? Do the people arguing for equality ever say that children of heterosexual couples are compromised? Do you ever get the sorts of emails and letters and tweets that have come out of this debate? Do people on the side of equality ever suggest that the other side is going to be advocating polyamory or bestiality?”
Wong ended her thoughts about the marriage debate by calling for respect.
“If there’s respect, I wouldn’t mind a bit of respect coming our way.”
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