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Inertial Conservatism (Recalibrated)

Fri 5 Feb 2016 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

The Key administration has done little for LGBT New Zealanders after the advent of marriage equality and inclusive adoption reform. Why? Does this mark the return of what I earlier called inertial conservatism?   "Inertial conservatism" is what happens when a government does nothing. And "nothing" describes exactly the lack of progress that New Zealand's LGBT communities have made on remaining LGBT concerns such as direct inclusion of gender identity within our Human Rights Act, the erasure of historic instances of criminalised consensual adult gay sex from criminal records from the days before the passage of the Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986 and comprehensive protection from anti-LGBTI bullying for LGBTI primary and secondary school students. Take the issue of gender identity. This could have been remedied quite simply and without much fuss at all if the prior Key administration Justice Minister Judith Collins had simply permitted Louisa Walls' Supplementary Order Paper 432 to go through the process of additions through the Statutes Amendment Act (No 4) in 2013, or if her successor and current incumbent Amy Adams had indicated her willingness to see reason on this particular human rights front. Instead of which, New Zealand will emulate the vanquished Canadian Conservative Harper administration as an excuse for doing nothing on this issue. It's certainly not the case in Australia or the United Kingdom, both of which have national, federal, state and territory trans-inclusive anti-discrimination legislation. Indeed, the Cameron administration has an excellent record on transgender rights. Instead of which, Auckland's Lifewise housing rights NGO tells us that trans people have to conceal the fact that they are transitioning or about to do so, because otherwise they will face accommodation discrimination. Nor will it be the case much longer in Canada, where the new Trudeau Liberal administration has said that it will add gender identity to the analogous Canadian Human Rights Act. India already has a national trans-inclusive anti-discrimination act that includes its hijra community, as do Pakistan and Bangladesh. So does Malta. Put simply, there is no excuse for this continuing inertia and sheer governmental laziness on this front, unless to pander to tiny unrepresentative anti-transgender fringe lobby groups like Family First, whose chair Bob McCoskrie has no qualifications in endocrinology, psychology or psychiatry that allow him to pontificate as ignorantly as he does when it comes to transgender rights. Despite Amy Adams earlier indicating that she was "open" to legislative reforms analogous to those in the United Kingdom and several Australian states and territories when it came to older gay men who had criminal records from the days before the Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986, that door has been closed as well. Adams states that it is because archival court records contain accounts that indicate conviction occurred in some instances because of non-consensual same-sex rape or pedophile assaults on male children, which are still criminal offences. Certainly, those who have been convicted for such serious criminal offences can and should be exempted from any general amnesty, although one trusts that identical exemptions on the basis of analogous criminal conduct also occur with existing clean slate legislation when it comes to heterosexual rape and child sexual abuse. One certainly hopes so. One imagines that these categories are similarly exempted from overseas historic offence erasure legislation. Now, I am willing to give some thought to this issue. Toward the final few years before homosexual law reform, it might well have been the case that law enforcement practice had evolved within New Zealand to the point where most criminal convictions occurred due to the above criteria as opposed to straight adult consensual gay sex. Apparently, we do not know because the Ministry of Justice has not had a close look at its archival court records to see if the latter had become the norm for police practice just before homosexual law reform took place. Surely it would be comparatively simple to do so. Instead of which, there isn't even a discussion paper, Law Commission report or summary of available information from the Office of the Parliamentary Library on this issue. And again, New South Wales and Tasmania carried out their historic offence erasure legislation debates under Liberal/National Coalition state governments, while it was the Cameron administration that presided over the passage of historic offence erasure legislation within the United Kingdom. Perhaps someone needs to prod Ms Adams into action through an Official Information Act request. We should not have to take this step, given the proactive legislative activity within Australia and the United Kingdom. Finally, there's the issue of anti-bullying legislation. With the end of the Harper administration, the Liberal Party will now be able to eventually pass comprehensive anti-bullying legislation. In the United Kingdom, there seems to be a 'postcode roulette' option, which means that some regional school administrations and boards of governors can pass inclusive anti-bullying policies, while others only pass generic anti-bullying provisions that do not address the needs of affected LGBT primary and secondary school students. Still others, namely conservative "faith academies" receive taxpayers money for financing anti-gay and anti-transgender "educational activity" and often have no such anti-bullying policies whatsoever in place. In some cases, this has been because LGBTI students and LGBT youth and family lobby groups have insisted on school policy changes, but this is an uneven process. Canada's proposed comprehensive national anti-bullying legislation will be LGBTI-inclusive and appropriately detailed. Then, however, there are issues of funding, scope and enforcement once the legislation has been drafted, debated and passed. Apart from funding provision and support for LGBT youth groups, there are as yet no analogous developments within New Zealand. None of these are major or controversial issues, despite Family First's ridiculous histrionics and their usual craven dependency on US Christian Right propaganda, tactics and strategies from Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, Heritage Foundation, Traditional Values Coalition and other such pressure groups when it comes to transgender rights. They're only doing that because they lost so heavily when it came to marriage equality and so did their offshore propaganda manufacturers. Do we really have to wait for a change of government so that a Labour/Green administration will pass such legislation and remedy these residual injustices? Other modern centre-right governments have embraced inclusion and amenable policy reform, particularly the Cameron administration in the United Kingdom. Why is residual LGBT legislative reform apparently such a partisan issue within New Zealand? Craig Young - 5th February 2016    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Friday, 5th February 2016 - 5:30pm

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