Openly gay federal climate change minister Penny Wong has ignited a storm of criticism following a declaration of support for her Government’s stand against gay marriage.
Wong put her stance to the public twice in three days — first on Channel 10 on Saturday, and again on the ABC on Monday night.
On Ten, the South Australian senator said she respected Labor’s view of marriage as an institution between a man and a woman.
“I think the reality is there is a cultural, religious, historical view around that which we have to respect,” she said.
Wong, who is not up for re-election on August 21, confirmed that position on ABC’s Q&A program.
“I accept that you and others in the community would like us to have a different position in terms of marriage. That isn’t the position of the party,” she said.
“I have a view — you join a team, you’re part of a team and that’s the way we operate. People sometimes like that and sometimes they don’t.”
Wong also appeared to shoot down the possibility of a conscience vote on the issue in the next parliament, saying, “I don’t believe in conscience votes”.
Defending Wong on Q&A, former Labor senator Graham Richardson said support for the issue within the ALP was far from widespread.
“There are a lot of people in the Labor Party who don’t agree with this stuff — at the moment there’s nowhere near a majority,” the party power broker said.
“She doesn’t run the government. She’s a part of it. There’s a thing called cabinet solidarity and if she wants to break it she gets nowhere.”
Australian Marriage Equality spokesman Alex Greenwich said Wong’s rationale for opposing marriage equality was deeply hypocritical.
“If culture, religion and history were sound reasons for upholding discrimination there would be no Senator Penny Wong,” he said.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young told Southern Star Wong’s comments had shown up a supposedly forward moving party.
“What happened to the party that wanted to move forward?” they gay marriage advocate asked.
“What we’re seeing from Penny Wong is anything but that.”
Equal Love Melbourne spokeswoman Ali Hogg labeled Wong’s statements “insulting”.
“I think her saying it’s about respecting cultural and religious and historical views is pretty offensive to the gay community,” she told Southern Star.
“We knew she’d come out and made those statements before, but to reinstate it, especially after Julia Gillard has re-affirmed her [opposition to gay marriage], is a double slap in the face.”
By citing cultural and religious views that oppose same-sex marriage, Hogg said she believed Wong was issuing a personal greenlight to homophobia.
“Seeing more and more people on the street supporting marriage rights is something I think can put pressure on parliamentarians, particularly gay and lesbian ones, you’d hope, to change their view on this issue.”
Wong has twice been voted on to the SameSame 25 Most Influential Gays and Lesbians list and has previously offered dinner with herself as a prize at the annual Aurora Dinner.
Multiple calls to her office by Southern Star this week were not returned.
Wong’s comments attracted a flurry of activity online with nearly 70 percent of 40,000 people stating their support for same-sex marriage on a Sydney Morning Herald poll, and four out of five Sydney Star Observer readers saying they would not vote Labor as a result of Wong’s comments.