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Louisa Wall’s address to Regional Dialogue on LGBTI Rights

Fri 27 Feb 2015 In: Features View at Wayback View at NDHA

Marriage equality champion and Labour MP Louisa Wall is in Thailand for a Regional Dialogue on LGBTI Rights. Here are her opening comments. Sawatdi kha. E nga mana, e nga reo, rau rangatira ma, tena kotou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa. I believe as does the United Nations that ALL Human Beings are born FREE and EQUAL in dignity and rights. ALL LGBTI people are human beings SO LGBTI rights are human rights AND what the fight for LGBTI rights does is emphasize a need for a First Principles United Nations Human Rights approach. That First Principle recognizes LGBTI people as equal human beings and therefore equal citizens within our respective democracies. That means our governments must govern for all of us, not the majority or those with the loudest voices but all human beings. Our first priority must be to eradicate state discrimination. To repeal all laws that discriminate against LGBTI people. Our objective must be homosexual law reform in the Asia-Pacific region as a collective priority. Once we have homosexual law reform, then we are no longer criminals. We have a right to exist, we are equal human beings and equal citizens. It is from this foundation that each of our respective nations, working with our LGBTI communities, can identify and discuss how best to give expression to collective and specific LGBTI rights. Parliaments, political parties and politicians have a significant role in protecting the rights and inclusion of LGBTI people, and to ensure all aspects of those rights are protected in the provision of all goods and services not only by the state but by society as a whole. New Zealand still has its challenges despite having achieved homosexual law reform in 1986. Marriage Equality was accomplished in 2013 but for some in our society, especially young LGBTI and specifically our transgender youth, issues of suicide and physical abuse are too high. Our intersex community are another area of challenge and there is a petition before our Parliament urging the Government to take action to address the inadequate supply of publically funded gender reassignment health services. Thank you to all our LGBTI leaders in the past and those of us here today who represent the many communities that comprise our Rainbow family across our many Nations. We are strong, we are resilient and we are not alone. We are here united in our efforts to realise full equality and full citizenship rights and responsibilities. My Marriage Equality Act was simple: it defined marriage as the union of two people "regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity." Marriage is a civil and social institution and only the government in NZ can issue marriage licenses to consenting adults and register marriage celebrants. My principal argument was that the state cannot discriminate against any of its citizens in administering their role - which is to issue a license. Where, how and who is involved in a marriage is private. However in advocating freedom from discrimination it was important to protect freedom of religion. Celebrants are authorized and not obliged to marry a couple - therefore we protected religious and cultural institutions in their practice of their own definition of marriage. This was the balance between freedom from discrimination across society perpetrated by the government and freedom of religion, relevant to members of that religion. We must learn to live together and it is only through mutual respect and a sense of a shared and collaborative future that the realization of first principle human rights can ever be realized. Thank you United Nations, UNDP and the ‘Being LGBT in Asia’ initiative for convening this event. Thank you to the Embassy of Sweden and USAID and the UN system for supporting this dialogue. Thank you to Luc Stevens, UN Resident Coordinator of Thailand and other participants for the honour of being here with you. I am proud to be LGBTI and I am proud to be part of this regional dialogue. I look forward to us working together to advance the needs and aspirations of our LGBTI communities. Finally, a whakatauki or proverb from our indigenous peoples: Ma tini ma mano ka rapa te whai - By many, by thousands, the work will be accomplished. Unity is strength. Sawatdi kha. Louisa Wall - 27th February 2015    

Credit: Louisa Wall

First published: Friday, 27th February 2015 - 9:26am

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