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Chris Carter

Thu 11 Jan 2007 In: Features View at NDHA

Happy New Year. My best wishes for a safe and successful 2007. I'm picking it is going to be a great year. Firstly, congratulations to Harvey Streager and Lawrence Jordan, two men from Geelong, Victoria, who were recently 'civilised' in Wellington. They told the Dominion Post that 'we thought it was important to have state recognition for our [30 year] relationship, even though it was not in Australia'. It's very satisfying to see GLBT couples using our civil union legislation – especially given how hard Labour's rainbow MPs and others had to work to push it through Parliament. Next month my partner Peter Kaiser and I will join the 700 couples who have formed a civil union since the law came into force in April 2005. It will be a special moment for both of us and a chance for our family and friends to give public witness to our 33-year relationship. We are fortunate to live in one of the most tolerant and respectful nations on the planet. In my role as a Cabinet Minister I often meet GLBT and other progressive politicians from around the world. Many envy our strong record of progressive reform of the laws and regulations that had discriminated against GLBT New Zealanders. The passage of the Civil Union Act, and the raft of other positive changes in recent years, came about through hard work by activists within Rainbow Labour and support to see them enacted from the wider Labour Party. Others have shown similar leadership in their own countries. My good friend Ben Bradshaw, Britain's Environment Minister, became the first MP in his country to use the UK's civil partnership legislation when he tied the knot with his partner Neal Dalgleish last June. Barney Frank, still the only out-gay US Congressman, has endured years of homophobic attacks and just last week was elected as Chair of the powerful House Financial Services Committee. His Democratic colleague, California State Senator Sheila Kuehl has been a particularly active supporter of GLBT causes. Last year she sponsored a bill which would require history textbooks used in public schools to include content about the contribution made by gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people. In 2006 while in Sydney I caught up with Penny Sharpe, a member of the New South Wales upper house and first lesbian elected to state office. With other Australian Labor Party elected members and activists, she is working to secure support within their own party and at state and federal level to see relationship legislation passed to protect GLBT couples. Just now this looks a difficult battle. During the 'liberation' years becoming visible – openly declaring one's sexuality – was all that was needed to start to change community attitudes. That's not to say it was easy, but as more and more of us were honest about ourselves it became much harder for bigotry, fear and prejudice to be sustained. The repeal of legislation criminalising us has now been achieved across much of the world. Rolling back the discriminatory laws and regulations that remain is a more subtle battle. As we have seen in New Zealand it generally must be won issue-by-issue. Reform fatigue can set in as conservative forces line up to challenge progressive politicians who instinctively want to do the right thing. During celebrations last year to mark 20 years since homosexuality was decriminalised out-politicians and other celebrities from Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States and Canada sent messages of support. Most of the messages remarked on the example that our country was setting for other less enlightened countries (including, in some cases, their own). As Berlin's Mayor, Klaus Wowereit, said 'we will have to continue working hard to get equality recognized as a basic human right' around the world. Let's hope we see some new positive steps forward in 2007. Hon Chris Carter MP Chris Carter MP - 11th January 2007    

Credit: Chris Carter MP

First published: Thursday, 11th January 2007 - 12:00pm

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