Des Smith with the medal he received last night One of Wellington's most active gay equality campaigners received a Kiwibank Local Heroes award last night and is now a contender for New Zealander of the Year. Des Smith and his partner John Jolliff have been active and highly visible campaigners for fair legal and social treatment of glbti people since the mammoth campaign for Homosexual Law reform in the mid-1980s. More recently they were the first same-sex couple in the country to be united in a Civil Union. In recent days the pair have publicly challenged the offensive questioning by an MP serving on the select committee looking into the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill which, if passed, would enable same sex couples to formally marry. Smith has also been a long-time worker in the environmental area, with ten years' service as a volunteer guide at Zelandia, previously known as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. Among his more hands-on work he also organises a group doing forest preservation work in and around the suburb of Ngaio and grows many of the seedlings which are planted out by volunteers re-establishing tracts of native bush. "I'm chuffed about getting the award," Smith says. "At the awards last night where Homosexual Law reform campaign leader [and now Greater Wellington chair] Fran Wilde made the presentation they mostly stressed the environmental things I do but in my little speech I pushed the gay rights work right to the fore. To be honest, if fighting bigotry hadn't taken up so much of my time the Wellington natural environment might have been better off!" Smith was amongst fourteen people from the Wellington area presented with awards last night, with similar presentations to be rolled out in other regions. All the Local Heroes will be contenders for the 2013 New Zealander of the Year award in February. Last year Sam Johnston, the gay man who organised the Student's Volunteer Army in Christchurch in the wake of the disastrous earthquakes, was also named a Local Hero and was a semi-finalist for New Zealander of the Year. You can discuss this New Zealand gay community news story in the GayNZ.com Forum.
Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff
First published: Tuesday, 27th November 2012 - 10:17am
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