10 Aug 2011

Australian politician Penny Wong and partner announce pregnancy

The only openly lesbian member of the Australian cabinet has announced that her partner is expecting the couple's first child; news of the pregnancy is expected to respark another round of debate about same-sex marriage.

Australian federal Finance Minister Penny Wong on Tuesday announced she is expecting a child with her partner Sophie Allouache. 

Australian federal Finance Minister Penny Wong (right) with her partner Sophie Allouache.

Wong, who's Australia's first openly gay cabinet minister, said that her partner is expected to give birth in December after conceiving the child through in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

"Like any expecting parents, the prospect of welcoming this child into our lives fills us both with joy," Wong said in a statement on Tuesday. "We are extremely grateful to our IVF service and staff, and to our donor, for giving us the opportunity to raise a child together."

The statement added that the biological father of the child is known to the couple, and will be known to the child. His name will however not be released to the media by agreement of all parties. 

"We have chosen to make this statement about Sophie’s pregnancy as we understand there may be public interest due to my position."

The Australian Labor Party (ALP) member was also quoted as saying in The Age on Aug 10: ''I can understand for some people it may give rise to a whole range of political and policy comment, and I suppose for me the way I want to approach this in my own head has been to be very clear about the distinction between what is political and what is personal, what is my public life and what is my private life. I don't want to engage in the policy debate about these issues in the context of something that is so deeply personal and so lovely.''

Although Wong had for a period of time adhered to party policy by declining to publicly support same-sex marriage, she broke ranks to fully support the legal right of same-sex couples to marry at the ALP National Conference in November last year.

The news has sparked fresh debate about federal government's stance on gay marriage with Prime Minister Julia Gillard congratulating the couple while refusing to say whether the pregnancy will have any impacts on Labor government's stance on gay marriage.

"Clearly there are strong views about same-sex marriage in the community," Gillard told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday. 

"There are strong views in the political party I lead, and we'll have a debate at national conference about those strongly held views. I've made my views clear." Said Gillard who has previously stated that she believes marriage must be between a man and a woman. Gillard is herself unmarried but lives with her long-term partner Tim Mathieson.

Political watchers say the issue of gay marriage is set to dominate the ALP's National Conference in December.