I've always been proud that the Labour Party has been in the vanguard of pushing an equality agenda in New Zealand. Our record in government during the 2000s was good, with most Labour MPs voting in favour of civil unions (compared with 3/27 Nats), and a range of improvements in other areas under way. Our role in bringing about the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 1980s is a matter of record.
This progress comes from our commitment to equality, and our belief that everyone has the same rights, no matter what their sexual orientation is. This is a view that is nowadays widely shared in New Zealand society, and that is good.
Labour has released the policy document which you can read here: http://www.ownourfuture.co.nz/rainbow
It tackles what might be summarised as the rights agenda, the respect agenda, and an international agenda to help make the world a safer place for people of different sexual orientations. We will move on equal relationship law and tackle the vexed issue of adoption, which goes far beyond the question of whether gay couples can adopt and needs a thorough look.
Of course, with any issue like this there are some tricky politics. I was at a Rainbow Wellington public forum last night where the ACT Candidate in Wellington Central, Stephen Whittington, referenced some dumb comments Trevor Mallard made in Parliament a while ago, calling the (openly gay) Attorney General Chris Finlayson "Tinkerbell".
This has been amplified today by that well known defender of the rights of queer people, David Farrar, on his blog KiwiBlog, and by Whittington himself in a media release. The result is this Stuff story "Labour accused of homophobia cover-up" by Andrea Vance.
Farrar's allegations are nonsense. He (and Whittington) are lying when they say that Grant and Charles denied Trevor's 'tinkerbell' stuff. They did no such thing.
They would have been stupid to. The remarks were well covered at the time. We told Trevor what we thought. Making slurs like that in Parliament is totally unacceptable.
What they denied is that Mallard is homophobic. They are right. Trevor has been a staunch defender of social liberal causes and was a key player in the fight to decriminalise homosexuality in the 1980s. His voting record on queer rights issues is perfect.
So my message to Whittington and to David Farrar is: stop lying on this point.
Farrar's other comments are much more low key.
- The quote from Ashraf was a jumble of nonsense which he was horrified by and which he apologised for at the time, and in any case he is leaving Parliament at this election.
- The reason our policy talks about the care of children issue is that adoption is complex and problematic from a whole set of different directions. It isn't just about gay adoption and I don't think it would be right to try and make it so.
For someone who is a social liberal, David sure does spend a lot of time stirring up nasty stuff. Today's post is not the first example.
As for Stephen Whittington: Steve, I don't know if you're gay or not, and I don't care either way, but next time you make a fuss about what happens at a public meeting, you might want to make sure you have your facts right.
And to both - this is a pretty sad attempt to cover up and distract from the question at the Rainbow Wellington forum that kicked this all off, which is about the views that a certain Mr John Banks holds on issues of homosexuality, and the things he did and said about it in the 1980s. Or perhaps the distraction is from Tau Henare's homophobic remarks to Charles Chauvel the other week in Parliament? Either way, sad.
Update - Fri 14 Oct, 4.40pm:
Trevor in Stuff this morning acknowledged that he should never have made the "Tinkerbell" remarks, which is true and good.
Out of the Rainbow Wellington meeting, Tony Reed (who is RW Secretary and isn't a candidate for any political party!) has the view that Grant and Charles did deny that Trevor had made homophobic remarks. Their argument is that they denied he was homophobic.
This begins to sound very much like dancing on the head of a pin, and I can't judget it as I wasn't there.
I stand by the key points I made above in the body of the post:
- Trevor should never have said what he said in Parliament, and it is indefensible that he did it.
- Grant and Charles wouldn't have defended it
- Trevor isn't a homophobe, and Grant and/or Charles were right to say so
If anyone else who was at the meeting and isn't affiliated to a political party has a view of what happened, I'd be interested to hear it.
I've never defended homophobia anywhere and I'm not defending it now. I don't like seeing my friends dragged in the mud for things that they haven't done or haven't said. There is more than enough in what people have said and done to keep political debate going.