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Through pink glasses: Charles Chauvel’s time as an MP

Tue 19 Feb 2013 In: Hall of Fame View at Wayback View at NDHA

Charles Chauvel is leaving us for the UN – a sad loss for our communities, but a great gain for people more directly reliant on the UN! We look back on his career as an out and proud Rainbow Labour MP. February 2013: Parliament unanimously supported his resolution to condemn proposed homophobic legislation in Uganda in Nigeria, after National had earlier blocked his attempt due to, well, politics. November 2012: Weighed in on a loophole which means the partner of gay US Ambassador David Huebner can’t work in New Zealand. Said Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully could change it “at the strike of a pen”. Unfortunately McCully did not even pick up his pen. August 2012: Ruffled conservative feathers when he asked anti-abortion group Right to Life to send him its rules, so he could see whether it actually has a mandate to comment on the issue of marriage equality. August 2012: Urged his colleague Su’a William Sio to “tell the whole truth” when it came to the increasingly contentious issue of marriage equality, after the Mangere MP claimed the bill would cost Labour the next election. July 2012: The UN Commission on HIV and the Law presented research representing 18 months of work, and spanning 140 countries. Chauvel was a member and summed it up with "If we want an AIDS-free world, then in fact the best thing we can do is deal to prejudice and disempowerment and make sure that everybody can negotiate their own safety," he said. June 2012: Said the judicial system should include an extension of the provocation repeal, so dead victims can’t be denigrated, in the wake of the Denis Phillips trial – where 17-year-old Willie Ahsee was ultimately cleared of the murder and found guilty of the manslaughter of the gay 59-year-old. "The victim was put on trial in absentia by the defence by being represented as an older person with a predilection for younger men - and who knows what prejudices this might have activated amongst one or more jury members, and how instrumental that may have been in leading to the finding of guilt for manslaughter rather than murder?" February 2012: Joined colleague Maryan Street in criticising the Corrections Department’s stance on the housing of transgender prisoners, following revelations the inmates are at risk of sexual assault under current policy: “It is both unjust and dangerous for transgender inmates to be put at such high risk of sexual and physical assault in prison, simply because Corrections cannot move with the times and recognise the significance of gender identity.” October 2011: Reacted to Simon Power's revelation that he ignored his conscience and voted against Civil Unions to appease his rural electorate: “The greatest crime a politician can commit is to say 'My conscience says one thing but my electors say another' and vote against your conscience. As an MP your duty is to lead, to have the arguments and in the end to follow your conscience. And frankly life is too short not to.” April 2011: Told us the decision to release one of the killers of teenager Jeff Whittington from prison despite being “a high risk of re-offending” had provoked him to include a review of the parole system into the party's draft justice policy. March 2011: Expressed concern about the impact Intellectual Property rights are having on the development of new HIV treatments. November 2010: Made a life member of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, and we heard he had begun lobbying for Homosexual Law Reform in 1985 and joined the NZAF as a volunteer in 1988, served on the Trust Board first as a member, and then as the Chair, from 1990 to 1996. In 1994, he was appointed to the Public Health Commission and seconded to the team that worked to successfully see the Bill of Rights and Human Rights Act amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or disability. June 2010: Appointed to the Global Commission on HIV and the Law. December 2009: Hosted a reception at Parliament marking five years since the Civil Union Act passed. November 2009: The partial defence of provocation is abolished, after the Government basically nicked Chauvel’s bill. While he was delighted he also said: "Remember those for whom this repeal comes too late," he added. "May they be the last to have their ordeals impugned in a court of law. Not one of their deaths is tolerable, and each of the victims whose killer has used the partial defence of provocation – successfully or not - stands as a silent witness to this reform.” November 2009: Pushed for Jamaican musician Beenie Man to be denied a visa to perform in New Zealand due to lyrics such as "I'm dreaming of a new Jamaica, come to execute all the gays”. May 2009: Drafted a bill to repeal the “gay panic defence”. April 2009: Appointed to promote a global partnership dedicated to attracting and disbursing resources to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, the Pacific Friends of The Global Fund. November 2007: It’s time to repeal the partial defence of provocation, Chauvel wrote in a piece for We have to remove the “Gay Panic Defence" from our laws. If a man is on the receiving end of an unwanted advance from another man, then the law needs to show that he just needs to learn to say “no”. If the advance is accompanied by unwanted physical contact, then reasonable – but never deadly - force to repel the contact should be the absolute maximum allowed by the law. July 2007: Spoke out about Nigeria’s plans to introduce an horrific anti-gay law. January 2007: Made’s New Year’s Honours. We wrote: Has any newbie MP in the history of NZ Parliamentary politics had to face the barrage of sleaze attacks that ushered Labour's latest gay MP into the house? From his work background (high powered lawyer and commissioner) to his home (rather upmarket in central Wellington) to his family ("He and male partner have kids??? Shudder"), everything was dragged through the media mudheap. Chauvel maintained his dignity. When finally even his professional ethics were questioned he came out fighting... and his detractors suddenly shut up. For gay community commitment, impressive competency and strength of character, Charles just had to be on this list. July 2006: Threatened legal action against anyone making further allegations against him of excessive publicly-funded travel. The Society for the Promotion of Community Standards (SPCS), a conservative pressure group accused him of overspending on travel while on the board of the Lotteries Commission. It also accused Chauvel of attempting to “crush free speech” by asking the High Court to ban anti-gay rights videos, and claimed Chauvel was part of the “Labour Party's ‘hidden agenda' to boost the number of high profile gay lobbyists.” July 2006: Enters Parliament, replacing Jim Sutton who retired. We wrote: Chauvel, 37, is listed by the international legal directory, Legal, as one of New Zealand's six top employment lawyers. He drives a sporty Mercedes and lives in the swanky Wellington suburb of Oriental Bay. With a French Tahitian father and a Scottish mother, Chauvel cuts a striking and well-groomed figure, especially when dressed in expertly tailored suits. A fresh face for a traditionally blue-collared party, he pays homage to his immigrant roots, and pinpoints the Homosexual Law Reform campaign of 1985-86 as the moment of his commitment to Labour. “I joined the Labour Party when I was at school in Gisborne at the age of 15 in 1985,” he said. “I was politicised by Fran Wilde's Homosexual Law Reform Bill, which was introduced around about the same time that I was discovering my own identity as a gay man.” Chauvel was impressed with the “principled” stand of Wilde and most of her colleagues within the Labour Party, and their track record on LGBT rights ever since. “My experience has been that Labour has in general been instinctively on the side of many of the important issues that concern our communities,” says Chauvel, though he stresses that he enters Parliament as “more than just a one-dimensional person.” And of course that’s just what he has done for the GLBT community, he has done plenty more. We salute you Charles Chauvel, and we sure as heck will miss you!!       Jacqui Stanford - 19th February 2013

Credit: Jacqui Stanford

First published: Tuesday, 19th February 2013 - 2:30pm

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