The Labor Party may be projecting a unified front regarding their refusal to allow same-sex marriages, but it seems things are a lot more heated behind closed Parliamentary doors.
Speaking on 2DayFM yesterday morning, the Prime Minister was questioned directly by gay newsreader Geoff Field. “Mr Rudd, I don’t want to be rude to you,” said Geoff, “but can I just put this to you, while Jason [my partner] and I are not legally allowed to marry that makes us second class citizens. Do you get how we feel?”
“It’s important that everyone’s relationships are treated with respect,” Rudd trotted out, “Marriage is a particular type of relationship… Our position is that marriage is between a man and a woman. I don’t mean any disrespect to same sex relationships.”
Blah, blah, blah – we’ve heard this nonsensical argument many times before. Rudd says that he wants to remove all discrimination against same sex couples with one breath, and with the other says “except marriage – we want that to ourselves.”
So it was very interesting when Penny Wong, Kevin Rudd’s openly lesbian right hand woman, was on a panel on ABC’s Q&A last night.
Referring to marriage as a “heterosexual institution”, she was quizzed by host Tony Jones over whether civil unions were acceptable: “Is it enough for you?”
Penny fumbled her way through an answer.
“It’s not where you want to be, is it?”
“My view is that I’m a member of the party, the party’s got a very clear view and that is a view that is supported, let’s be frank, by the vast majority of Australians.”
Tim Wilson, another openly gay panel member from the Institute of Public Affairs, would not take this for an answer. “But what have you done, Penny Wong, from inside the party to advocate for an alternate position?” Wilson said. “There’s two gay people on this panel, you and I, and I find it very frustrating that in your party room you may very well be vocal, but when you come out here you defend it. It’s okay to have a different opinion form your party. I think the public expects that people have different perspective from time to time.”
“I’ve been in parliament now for six years and I’ve put my view forward on a whole range of issues in the party room,” replied Wong. “We do that in parliament, we put a range of views and then we come to a particular decision. My view is that frankly that’s where most of the community is at. It may not be where you are… but most Australians still regard marriage in the way I’ve described and the Labor Party accepts that.”
Despite towing the party line, it sounds like there were indeed some pretty heated discussions behind closed doors in Parliament.
Come on Penny, it’s time for you to come out and tell us what you really believe.