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Little surprise at Government's trans stance

Wed 27 Jul 2011 In: New Zealand Daily News

There's little surprise but plenty of frustration from trans rights campaigners TransAdvocates at the Government's stance that it's unnecessary to update the Human Rights Act to ensure trans people can't be discriminated against. Under questions Rainbow Wellington managed to have put to the House, Justice Minister Simon Power has again leaned on the Crown Law advice that Act protects people from discrimination on the basis of 'sex' which includes gender. "There is nothing to suggest that this prohibited ground of discrimination would be construed so narrowly as to exclude trans people from protection," Power says. "A law change is unnecessary at this time." Campaigner Allyson Hamblett is leading TransAdvocates' charge for the Act to be updated and she says she is disappointed, but not surprised by Power's response. "But it's interesting that his response 'law change is unnecessary at this time' has been so consistent over last three years - suggesting no real thought has been applied to the issue," she says. "I think it is so important for 'gender identity' to appear under the sex category of the Human Rights Act. My response is consistent because it will make trans people know that we are protected from discrimination, but also let employers know that people like us are covered by Human Rights Act. Recognition is so important for marginalised groups." Hamblett understands it is easier to be gay or lesbian than transgender, pointing out this year is the 25th anniversary of the Homosexual Law Reform and sexual orientation also has specific mention in the Human Rights Act. "I cannot understand why members of Parliament are reluctant to specifically mention gender identity." TransAdvocates member and lawyer Kelly Ellis says it's a largely symbolic piece of legislation and she sees the refusal to act as the Government symbolically turning its back on trans people. "Despite strong support within the National Caucus, according to TransAdvocates Trust's own polling, this kind of arrogant snub reflects the attitude of someone who's leaving and wants to give a parting transphobic shot. Any competent speech writer could have dressed this up with diplomatic obfuscation and neutrality. Instead he's told us to 'piss off' again. It demonstrates disregard for his own caucus, let alone the slightest inkling of recognition of the issues trans people face," Ellis says. "If ever there was a cause that should unite trans communities, surely this is the one."    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Wednesday, 27th July 2011 - 10:55am

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