MIA: The photo that made me unexpectedly emotional.

By MIA FREEDMAN Looking at photos of politicians don’t usually make me feel proud, happy and teary all at once. But today, one did. Flicking through a gallery of our federal politicians and their partners arriving at Canberra’s MidWinter Ball in Parliament House that was held last night, there was certainly a lot to look at.

Julia Gillard looked incredible – styled in a way I’ve never seen her before, with red lips and Gatsby hair and a beautiful, age-appropriate gown. Margie Abbott looked very va-va-voom in a dramatically off the shoulder dress that really suited her. Julie Bishop wore a beaded, sheer, feathery dress that was feminine and really pretty. Tanya Plibersek looked stunning and Grecian. They all looked happy to be out of their suits for once and ready for a fun night raising money for charity. But it was the image of Finance Minister Penny Wong with her partner Sophie Allouache, holding hands and beaming as they walked in together that stopped me clicking.

[This image has been removed due to licensing agreements.]

  The couple have been together for several years and have an 18 month old daughter together, named Alexandra. It can’t have been easy for Penny Wong to come out as the first openly gay federal minister back in 2007. Nor can it have been easy for her to navigate her personal beliefs with her party’s refusal to endorse same-sex marriage. (Last year the ALP amended their party platform to allow members of parliament a conscious vote on this issue but when the matter has come before the parliament, it has been unsuccessful due to Tony Abbott’s refusal to allow the same free vote to coalition politicians). Her boss, Julia Gillard, still remains staunchly opposed to legalising same-sex marriage. That can’t be easy for Penny Wong either. But anyway. Last night wasn’t about policy or politics. It was merely an opportunity for politicians to have a night out with their partners. And the fact that Penny Wong and Sophie Allouache were less newsworthy than the colour of the PM’s lipstick, well, I think that’s a beautiful sign of progress. Because sexuality should be irrelevant. Whether your partner is male or female should be as unremarkable as the colour of your hair. And the fact that this private couple felt comfortable enough to hold hands in public is one small step towards well overdue equality for all Australians, no matter who they love.

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