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Rainbow Labour decides its future

Thu 2 Nov 2006 In: New Zealand Daily News

Openly gay MP Tim Barnett says the ‘Rainbow' sector of the Labour Government met twice during the party conference in Roturua last weekend to discuss the future of Rainbow Labour. “We're in transition,” Barnett tells “The big projects have broadly been achieved. That's not to say there isn't more to be done. But the big changes need to ‘bed in'. The focus now is more on communication within our own community." Barnett was pleased with the turnout at the conference – the biggest in twenty years. “Diversity, which is very much a hallmark of Labour, was very much present,” he observed. The Rainbow Labour events on the weekend were the half-day sector council meeting on Friday, and the Sunday ‘Rainbow Breakfast'. Rainbow Labour has achieved a lot, and now must guard what has been done by tidying up around the edges of legislation, says Barnett. “There's always a fear that a different mood can lead to things changing.” I'm personally still keen on getting a nationwide lobby group set up which is independent of Rainbow Labour. It'd be a guardian for our community's rights. It shouldn't be a Rainbow project – it should be wider.” International Human Rights standards are a project for the medium term, continues Barnett. “In most countries, gay sex is still criminalised.” There's still an inquiry in the Government Admin Committee on Hate Speech that was never finished. They heard some submissions, he says, “but the problem is that the whole membership of the committee has now changed. So they'd have to do a big reprise on what they've done so far, before they can move ahead.” Green MP Metiria Turei's adoption bill, which will allow gay couples to adopt children, is in the ballot. Barnett says the adoption issue is of symbolic significance, although “the actual numbers involved nowadays are pretty tiny, and most adoptions are done overseas which means the laws of that country still apply to it. The law commission are doing further work on provocation – which includes the ‘homosexual panic defense' issue, where those accused of violent crime against an LGBT person can claim panic over that person's sexuality provoked the attack. The Wills Bill is also going through Parliament. The legislation clears up one of the anomalies left by Civil Union law, making sure law around succession applies equally to civil unions as it does to marriage. Also going through is the Status of Parents Bill, giving more formal legal status to a sperm donor. At the moment a contract can be formed, but there's no automatic law saying what your parenting rights are. Barnett knows there is still discrimination and homophobia out there. “When Rosemary McLeod says something bizarre in the Sunday newspaper, or when moments happen that could be celebrated, like Charles Chauvel – someone with a very senior legal history - entering Parliament, the media seem to focus more on the fact that he's gay. Suddenly the media run those lines about Labour being less for workers and more for gays, but increasingly half-heartedly – because it's so clearly not true. We just think ‘the storm will pass' and get on with it. “I do sense that having a number of out queer MP's is less and less newsworthy. I think it reflects a Parliament that is pretty big on diversity.” Now we have five Rainbow Labour MP's, and looking to the future, Barnett sees a fair representation of ‘Rainbow' people coming forward for the next generation of Labour. “Louisa Wall is second down on the Labour List. Also, Grant Robinson's been mentioned around Wellington Central as a possible candidate,” he reveals. “So we've come a long way from only having one gay MP only seven years ago. That does act as a powerful guarantee of our rights in the future. “Labour has been a party that has done the most to support the gay community, and no one of us is ashamed of that. The party at large is happy we've got a group like the queer community giving a lot of support to Labour because of what we've actually done.”     Ref: (m)

Credit: News Staff

First published: Thursday, 2nd November 2006 - 12:00pm

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