As an openly gay woman in the public eye, Labor senator Penny Wong is all too familiar with the discrimination that same sex couples face on a daily basis. Hateful messages, verbal abuse, even assault. While she remains resilient, she’s fearful that a plebiscite on same-sex marriage will only make things worse.
Delivering the Lionel Murphy Memorial Lecture at ANU last night, the frontbencher argued that the non-binding, non-compulsory public vote proposed by the Coalition would “license hate speech to those who need little encouragement”.
“I don’t oppose a plebiscite because I doubt the good sense of the Australian people. I oppose a plebiscite because I do not want my relationship, my family, to be the subject of inquiry, of censure, of condemnation, by others. And I don’t want other relationships, other families, to be targeted either,” Senator Wong said.
The mother of two took aim at Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis, who she claims have bowed to internal pressure exerted by opponents of the cause.
“In supporting the plebiscite Mr Turnbull repudiated the position he had previously put to the party room and in the public domain. He now tells us that a plebiscite campaign will be conducted respectfully. These are the hollowest of hollow words,” she said.
“Not one straight politician advocating a plebiscite on marriage equality knows what that is like. What it is like to live with the casual and deliberate prejudice that some still harbour.”