Life in the house for gay MPs
Saturday July 8, 2006
Twenty years after homosexual law reform, the Weekend Herald asked four gay MPs and transsexual MP Georgina Beyer these questions about sexual orientation and politics today.
1. Is sexuality an electoral issue? Has sexuality had any impact on your political career?
2. Do gay MPs face appeals with contentious issues to vote along "gay lines"? Would they have any impact on your voting along party or conscience lines?
3. In some aspects, the civil union debate was a contemporary replay of the homosexual law reform debate. What did that debate say about New Zealand's social attitudes almost 20 years on from law reform?
4. Are further legal reforms still needed for gay people? If so, what?
1. My sexuality is relevant to my being and has moulded much of my politics, but it is not dominant. It comes up regularly in my electorate work, more as a matter of curiosity or a reason to expect empathy.
2. Gay-specific issues are, alone among human rights concerns, conscience votes in Parliament. This says something about the cautious political response to sexuality, but also creates opportunity to attract support across the spectrum.
3. The calmness of most debate and the marginal nature of opponents said we had come a long way. Gays are accepted as a fact of life.
4. Until there is equality under the law and equal treatment by the law and the agents of the state there will always be a need to do more.
1. My sexuality was not an issue for the voters ... it was a factor because it's part of what makes me notable, but I'm out and always have been.
2. I was elected as a constituency MP for the Wairarapa for my first two terms and that was my electoral responsibility. With things like Civil Union there was no way I wasn't going to support that. I didn't question my conscience at all, but it did compromise me as far as my electorate was concerned.
3. Civil union legislation enhanced human rights and equality ... but it was quite hard-fought.
4. My own member's bill (to include gender identity as one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Human Rights Act), which should be clarified shortly.
1. Sexuality has not been a negative issue in my career. In spite of being an openly gay politician, I've been lucky enough to garner a lot of personal support. In every election since 1996 my personal vote has been well above the party vote.
2. I belong to a political party that has taken a positive stand on gay issues, so it hasn't been an issue.
3. There was a great deal of noise about civil unions, but that was largely in the media and in Parliament. New Zealanders were fairly relaxed about civil unions.
4. Full equality has almost been achieved. Metiria Turei's private member's bill on adoption touches on one remaining inequality. I support the right of same-sex couples to be adoptive parents.
1. No, apart from occasionally having to answer questions from some journalists who have an obsession with the subject.
3.That we are adult enough to have the discussion.
4. Yes. Tax relief, infrastructure reform, a decent health service and above all honest government, all of which can only be achieved by the election of a National government led by Don Brash.
1. I stood as a candidate in conservative, true-blue Taranaki-King Country in the 2005 general election. My sexuality was never raised by a single constituent or opposing candidate.
2. For the most part, the Rainbow communities are more aware of the complexity of politics and less inclined to be focused on single issues than they used to be.
3. The Civil Union Act was about equality, and most New Zealanders recognised that. Twenty years ago, people were not so aware of their own family members and workmates and neighbours who were gay.
4. Further improvements may not need legislation. Where legislation might be required, we'll address that on a case by case basis.
I think Christopher Finlayson stands out here, I'm not exactly sure what he's saying... tax cuts and individual health care for gay people? Or perhaps he didnt understand the question...?