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Ex-MP O’Regan apologises to trans people

Fri 30 Nov 2012 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback View at NDHA

Katherine O'Regan speaking in Parliament's Legislative Council Chamber tonight Former National MP Katherine O’Regan has apologised to transgender people for not including their protection in changes to the Human Rights Act in 1993. As Associate Minister of Health, O’Regan led amendments to the Human Rights Act to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and having organisms in the body which might cause disease. Protection on the grounds of gender identity is something transgender people are still lobbying for, and is one of the things the Human Rights Commission’s Transgender Inquiry called for in 2008. The Government claims the 1993 changes were enough and specifically mentioning transgender people is “unnecessary,” as then-Justice Minister Simon Power put it last year. O’Regan has told the opening session of the National Marriage Equality Conference at Parliament that including gender identity was discussed when changes to the Human Rights Act were mooted. “We did discuss it a lot, but we knew we were only going to get this far this time. We knew the House would only go so far and rather than lose it all, we had to lose something.” The former MP says she wishes it had been included and expressed her hope it will be pushed through soon. She expressly apologised to transgender people for not including them in the '90s. O’Regan has spoken tonight alongside a roll-call of individuals who have had a huge impact on GLBT rights in New Zealand. Fran Wilde, who led the Parliamentary charge for Homosexual Law Reform in the 80s, paid tribute to all those who came out and helped push the law change through. “It was visibility that made this happen,” she said, explaining it required the majority of New Zealanders to understand there was nothing in it that was going to have any effect on them other than improving the lives of the gay people in their lives - that there was no negative impact. “More and more gay men came out,” she recalled, lauding the bravery of people who were “illegal” in coming out, “There was a shift in views as people realised ‘ordinary Kiwis’ were gay,” she said. “The fundamentalist churches were just on the rampage. It was scary what they were doing.” Wilde saluted Louisa Wall, whose marriage equality bill is before a select committee, saying it is “another part of the jigsaw puzzle that we have to put together in this country.” She said there is still work ahead, such as sorting out the way transgender people are treated in law. “I suppose gay law reform was sort of the lynchpin to start all of that,” she said, before adding there is still some way to go.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Friday, 30th November 2012 - 8:09pm

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