By Elias Jahshan and Miles Heffernan

POLITICIANS are often the target of satire in Mardi Gras floats but on Saturday night, South Australian Senator Penny Wong will — for the first time — march alongside her LGBTI community in the iconic Parade.

Chatting to the Star Observer exclusively before her big march with Rainbow Labor on Saturday night, Wong said she felt excited.

“It is a really important event for our community but also for the country,” she said.

“I think being visible in this way is yet another way to add my voice to those calls for equality that we have to continue.”

Summing up why she advocated for equality, Wong was unequivocal: “Not only is equality a powerful principle, we are also arguing for the most important people in our lives — the people we love.”

Wong also opened up on what Mardi Gras meant to her.

“It is a celebration of identity and community and a celebration of who we are,” she said.

“I am a politician so I see it politically. It is a very important statement to the Australian community, we’re proud and we’re part of your community and we celebrate who we are. That is enormously powerful.”

Wong, who entered politics in South Australia in 2002, reflected on how far LGBTI rights have come for same-sex couples.

“When I stood for pre-selection I thought at the time ‘I wonder what I would see during my time I am in politics’,” she said.

“If you said to me in 10 years that you would see Labor changing its platform to support marriage equality, that we would have passed laws to see the equal treatment of same-sex couples, I would have thought that was pretty ambitious.”

So much so, that she felt “quite emotional” on that day when the ALP agreed on a conscience vote on marriage equality during a national conference in 2012. She hinted that she felt hurt at previous ones.

“I had been at national conferences where there had been discussion about including sexuality as a ground for discrimination in our platform,” Wong said.

“I suppose I had witnessed how far the Labor party have moved and how much the discussion had changed over the 14 years or so that I had been going to national conference.

“I did find it quite emotional, because of the change and the good people who had worked for it but also as you know, it is about us. It is personal. It is about the relationships that are the most import to us in the world.”

Wong credited her colleague Anthony Albanese for being one of the first to get the ball rolling with the decade of law reforms by introducing a private member’s bill into parliament to ensure same-sex couples were not discriminated against with super-annuation.



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