Penny Wong, the Labor front bencher known for her forthright views waited anxiously with a television screen in front of her at the Parliament House. She was not alone in the room. With her was other Labor and Green Members of Parliament. There were also a smattering of crossbench MPs. For Wong, everything that she has done until then has led to that moment. The elected representative from Canberra is famous for her no-nonsense demeanor.
Being gay before it was accepted
The same sex marriage has taken a toll on Wong in a number of ways. During the long debate, she was pushed to defend her family when opponents compared her two daughters to a new kind of 'stolen generation'. The astute politician was instructed to wait for marriage equality-something she has been doing for a long time. The moment came as the clock ticked interminably slow to 10 in the morning.
Penny Wong was the first parliamentarian to come out as openly gay in the Australian federal parliament. She was also the cabinet's first gay member. There was a time when Wong, against her own principles, was compelled to follow the Labor party line when the latter came out against same-sex marriage.
Outcome and relief
Wong was understandably tensed about the outcome of the vote. She said to her companions that the countdown time was the longest minutes in her life. Then everything changed. David Kalisch, the chief of Australian Bureau of Statistics, announced that those in the Yes faction should form a line. Kalisch followed proper procedures before announcing the result. Labor MPs became impatient, urging the chief statistician to hurry up. Wong did not say anything, intently staring at the screen.
At exactly three minutes past 10 in the morning, Kalisch announced that out of 12.7 million voters, about seven million had voted 'yes'. Wong permitted herself a smile only after she did the needed quick mental calculation. She started to cry when the statistician said that 61.6 percent of voters said Yes. The politician was then bear-hugged by her colleagues. Derryn Hinch, the independent MP, put on her shoulder the rainbow flag. When asked later by the media how she felt, the MP joked that she has now cried in front of whole Australia. She also said that she was relieved by the result. Liberal ministers were joyful at the outcome.