An exchange between Australia’s Finance Minister Senator Penny Wong and her political shadow during a political panel show is stirring huge interest.
One line from Wong, whose partner Sophie had a baby last December, has particularly hit home: “I know what my family is worth.” It is already available on t-shirts and coffee mugs. The Sydney Morning Herald called the exchange a “watershed.”
On the ABC TV panel show Q&A, the topic of same-sex marriage was brought up by an audience member. He asked the shadow finance minister, Joe Hockey, who is against amendments to the Marriage Act which would allow marriage equality, why he thinks he and his wife make better parents than the Finance Minister and her female partner.
“I think in this life we’ve got to aspire to give our children what I believe to be the very best circumstances – and that’s to have a mother and a father,” Hockey asserted.
Penny Wong took exception to this:
“When you say those things Joe, what you’re saying to me and people like me is that the most important thing in our lives – the people we love – is somehow less good, less valued,” she said.
“Is it hurtful?” asked host Tony Jones.
“Of course it is,” the senator replied. “But I know what my family is worth.”
The Australian Marriage Equality (AME) campaign said their website traffic has doubled and the clip trended on Twitter.
AME coordinator Rodney Croome said that Wong’s ”gentle, quiet self-confidence” illustrates the importance of personal stories for making a difference in the same-sex marriage debate.
“People saw beyond the politics to how it actually affects people,” he said.
Two marriage equality bills are before Australia’s parliament, but neither are expected to be passed as the opposition coalition has refused to allow a free vote for its MPs. Last December, the ruling Labor Party allowed its MPs a free vote. Australian Prime Minister Gillard is opposed to marriage equality.
Polls show support for marriage equality now above 60% in Australia. Campaigners say that President Obama’s support for marriage equality has also had a big impact down under.
Photo credit: Screengrab from Channel Nine