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Meet "your" gay and lesbian MPs

Mon 28 Nov 2011 In: People View at NDHA

The general election has seen seven gay candidates elected to Parliament... five are familiar faces, one is slightly less familiar in the house and one is totally new. Although these men and women are not elected to represent the glbti community their very presence in the house increases the likelihood that our issues will be taken more seriously. Their visibility sends out a reaffirming message to glbti New Zealanders from Kaitaia to Oban, and a rebuff to homophobes everywhere. The five returning gay MPs are all extremely highly placed in their parties and are poised to take seriously high-placed roles or portfolios. One is even tipped to become deputy leader of the Labour Party when Phil Goff steps down as leader tomorrow. Charles Chauvel Charles Chauvel gave UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne a run for his money in the Ohariu electorate but ultimately was unsucfessful in his attempt to drive the socially conservative (read: uneasy to obstructive on glbti issues) long-term MP from the house. But his incredibly high position, at number 11, on Labour's list saw the highly-regarded Chauvel heading back to Parliament anyway. The former lawyer and NZ AIDS Foundation Trust Board chair is a stalwart advocate for the glbti community. He got into politics after doing quite a bit of public litigation in the 1990s, including trying to get some grossly anti-gay hate publications being circulated by fundamentalist Christian groups declared indecent or objectionable after their publication led to assaults on lesbian and gay people and attacks on their property. Chauvel says this helped him to realise that using the parliamentary process from the inside to work for fairness was likely to be a more effective way of achievement change than any other. He married his partner Dave, a former police officer who is now in the recruitment business, in Toronto. Chauvel was the Labour party's spokesman on Justice and the Environment. Chris Finlayson One of the most powerful gay men in the country has been Christopher Finlayson, who became Attorney General under the John Key-led Government. Finlayson is a former lawyer and close friend of Bill English who entered Parliament in 2005, and was ranked ninth on the National Party list. Known for his patronage of the arts, Finlayson served on the board of Creative New Zealand for six years and chaired the Arts Board from 1998 - 2001. He was also a Trustee of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Foundation and has been Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage. The only out National MP, he notoriously does not give personal interviews, and once told a gay audience he is an "odd fish" as he is gay as well as Catholic, has no partner and is celibate. Kevin Hague Kevin Hague was ranked only behind his co-leaders on the Greens' party list and ran in the West Coast electorate. In this notoriously Greens-unfriendly region he came in fourth but his list position sees him back in Parliament. Hague's overriding passion for the plight of glbti youth has been evident through his time in Parliament, and has included a rousing speech highlighting what young queer people face in coming to terms with their sexuality, and also releasing research on how we can make it better, now, for young people. "As a gay adult in 2011 my life is now immeasurably better than it would have been back in the 1970s when I was coming out," he told the GABA debate in Auckland. "But for a 14-year old boy coming out in 2011 and starting to realise his difference, I don't believe that things are actually that much different. My greatest priority has been creating a supportive social environment for our young people to come out into." Before entering politics Hague was the Chief Executive of the West Coast District Health Board and before that the Executive Director of the NZ AIDS Foundation. He lives near Greymouth with his partner. Jan Logie Jan Logie enters Parliament thanks to her 9th place ranking on the Greens' list. She is development manager for the NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities, and decided to get into politics because she was sick of shouting at the radio and decided it would be healthier to actually engage with the political process. "I want to be a person in Parliament who is accessible to the community and to groups working towards positive social change. I know from experience that it really helps to have people in Parliament who are on your side and who will work with you as a team," she says. On election night Logie declared that she intends to stand up to homophobic voices in Parliament, particularly the politically resurrected long-time homophobe John Banks. Logie wants to advocate about the implementation of the recommendations of the To Be Who I Am report, bullying and discrimination in schools and workplaces, the right to adopt children and full equality under the law for all relationships. Grant Robertson Labour's Grant Robertson easily won Wellington Central, a hisorically liberal electorate. He is being talked of in knowledgable political and media circles as a front-runner to become deputy leader of the Labour party after Phil Goff's resignation tomorrow. On being gay, the former NZ AIDS Foundaion Trustee and rugby enthusiast stated in his maiden speech to Parliament: "I am proud and comfortable with who I am. Being gay is part of who I am, just as is being a former diplomat, a fan of the mighty...Wellington Lions, and a fan of New Zealand music and New Zealand literature. "My political view is defined by my sexuality only inasmuch as it has given me an insight into how people can be marginalised and discriminated against, and how much I abhor that. I am lucky that I have largely grown up in a generation that is not fixated on issues such as sexual orientation. I am not - and neither should others be." Robertson is in a civil union with his partner, Alf, whom he met when the pair both played for the Wellington gay rugby team. Maryan Street Maryan Street is a former schoolteacher and Labour Party President who fought hard but lost an almost unwinnable battle in her highly conservative Nelson electorate. She returns to Parliament due to her high place at seventh on the Labour list. In opposition Street has been spokeswoman for Trade and Foreign Affairs, and has been vocal on glbti right issues overseas. At the GABA pre-election debate she explained: "Our policies are based on three principles, equality, safety, and dignity... that's all and that's everything. We believe in equality of human rights and no difference on the basis of sexual orientation. And we believe in sticking up for glbti rights, safety and dignity around the world, in those countries where people are beaten, tortured, killed, imprisoned because of their sexuality. There is a global responsibility as well as a local one." Louisa Wall Former double NZ sporting international Louisa Wall moved from the rugby field and netball court into the political game, and has claimed the Labour safe seat of Manurewa for the upcoming term, after two previous short stints in Parliament due to other MPs leaving. Incredibly passionate about youth, she is concerned about the bullying gay and trans kids face in schools and has told us she thinks making sure students know there is support available should be a key performance indicator for principals. "You shouldn't need a gay staff member in the school to push the issue. Because I do think there is a correlation between our high rates of youth suicide and just not having formal structures where young people can just talk about how they're feeling," she said. "It should just be a standard thing, where we want all our kids to be who they are and encourage them to be themselves. Wall, like all the Rainbow Labour and Green MPs, is publicly pro same-sex adoption and marriage. She is in a civil union with her partner, lawyer Prue Kapua. Daily News staff - 28th November 2011    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Monday, 28th November 2011 - 11:59am

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