New Zealand overtakes the UK's title for the gayest Parliament

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 19 Oct 2020, 9:19PM
Flags representing the Rainbow Community flying outside Parliament.
Flags representing the Rainbow Community flying outside Parliament.

New Zealand overtakes the UK's title for the gayest Parliament

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 19 Oct 2020, 9:19PM

New Zealand now holds the title of the gayest Parliament in the world.

Saturday's preliminary results show there is likely to be 13 openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the 120 members sitting in the next Parliament - boosting the rainbow representation from seven last year after Labour swept in after yesterday's election.

The overall rainbow representation will be at 10 per cent - providing the Green Party is successful holding on to its preliminary 11 seats - bypassing the UK which holds the current title of the gayest Parliament with a 7 per cent representation.

In the UK there are 45 openly gay members in the 650-member House of Commons.

Meanwhile the openly gay MPs in New Zealand's recently elected Parliament include Labour's incumbents Grant Robertson, Louisa Wall, Meka Whaitiri, Tamati Coffey and Kiri Allan and newcomers Ayesha Verrall, Shanan Halbert and Glen Bennett.

They will be joined by openly gay Green Party member and spokeswoman for Rainbow issues Jan Logie, Chloe Swarbrick, Elizabeth Kerekere and Ricardo Menendez. About 40 per cent of the Green Party MPs are from the rainbow community.

However if the special votes result in the Green Party losing seats then Elizabeth Kerekere and Ricardo Menendez who are current ranked 9 and 10 respectively could lose their seats, therefore lowering the LGBT representation to a minimum of nine members.

Neither Act or National Party currently have any openly gay MPs in their parties.

Auckland Pride director Max Tweedie said this is something those parties will have to look at come next election.

"I think it's the responsibility of every party that they are reflective of the country they want to serve. I think they have to take a good hard look at themselves if they don't have any representation in their caucuses."

Tweedie said that this increase in representation matters, and hopes that it means progress on rainbow policy.

"The last time we had a big, significant policy win for rainbow communities was back in 2013 when marriage equality passed into law." He said there has been little progress over the last three years. 

Tweedie hopes to see a ban on conversion therapy passed quickly, as it is already the subject of a members bill. Labour and the Greens both committed to passing a ban on the practice during the campaign. 

Other areas where he hopees progress is made include the funding for rainbow mental health services and greater access to health care for transgender and intersex people. 

The Green Party wanted to introduce an Office for Rainbow Communities, a policy that may not make it across the line now that Labour has an outright majority.

Tweedie said an office would create visibility for the rainbow communities, and an office could help streamline funding and create a hub for government policy. 

"We've got a massive wishlist of advancements we'd like to make for the rainbow community, and because they are across all areas of government, what we see is that the ministries aren't flagging it as a top priority." 

Inside Out managing director Tabby Besley said it was a wonderful to see New Zealand holding the international title and was great to have the rainbow community's voices and issues considered by people with lived experience.

She said not only did they have a rainbow member who held a really prominent position in Labour Grant Robertson, but there was also the new addition to the Green's with Elizabeth Kerekere who had been campaigning on rainbow issues.

"I think for our communities a lot of us know she will be waving the flag as one of her main priorities whereas I guess many MPs might have other portfolios or some people may not want their rainbow identity to be the main thing they talk about because they are just doing their job like other people. At least with her position we know she's not going to be shy around raising these issues so that is quite exciting.

Besley said things were relatively slow-moving for the rainbow community over the last term and they would like to see policies such as the ban on conversion therapy actioned swiftly.

University of Waikato senior lecturer in psychology and president of the Professional Association for Transgender Health Aotearoa Dr Jaimie Veale hoped a larger representation of the rainbow community in Parliament would result in more progress as believed there had not been enough during the past two terms.

Veale also wanted to see some recognition on rainbow people's rights such as health equities and make it easier for transgender people to have legal gender recognition which had stalled under a NZ First minister.

"Thinking of the transgender - we are hopeful that the current make-up of Parliament will be more responsive to our needs now."