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Concern grows at National's families plan

Thu 23 Oct 2008 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback View at NDHA

Gay politicians and community leaders are expressing heightened concern at the National Party's announced intention to disband the gay-aware Families Commission and divert its funding to services run by organisations such as "repressive" religious groups with a homophobic track record. Speaking to a gathering organised by anti-gay Family First, National party leader John Key said he would abolish the Commission, and instead fund faith-based and other services. He told the religious forum that groups such as Family First and Ian Grant's evangelical Parents Inc., which he praised, did not need bureaucrats telling them what constitutes a family. Calling the plan "outrageous" and the product of either "bigotry" or "a preparedness to say or do anything in the pursuit of power," Kevin Hague, a past head of the NZ AIDS Foundation, Chief Executive of the West Coast District Health Board and a Green party candidate says glbt families and individuals need to be especially alarmed by National's plan. "It is a sad betrayal of National MPs like Katherine O'Regan and Katherine Rich who have been voices for celebrating the diversity of the wider human family." Hague says Key's proposal "reveals either the bigot within, carefully hidden until now, or a preparedness to say or do anything in the pursuit of power." Clearly in campaigning mode, Hague says the Greens "would want to see resourcing particularly available for groups like Rainbow Youth and for GLBT community organisations, but this would be additional to, and not at the expense of the Families Commission." OUTline NZ, a long-established and major gay community counseling and support organisation, has also slammed the proposal, saying frustration is rising in the glbt communities "as Keys vocally supports the work of anti-gay Parents Inc, run by evangelical Christian Ian Grant." "Will the National party leader support OUTLine NZ so vocally?" asks Outline NZ chief executive Lesley Belcham. "We are a community based GLBTT organisation and have the capacity to run campaigns for our community." She says if National forms the next government and follows through with its plan, "we request a share of the savings to run anti-violence, anti-bullying and anti-homophobia campaigns within schools." Additionally, Belcham says diverting funds from  the Families Commission to any anti-gay groups would seriously jeopardise moves to legally legitamise adoption by same sex couples. "This reform seems insurmountable without the support of the Families Commission and especially with extra proposed funds being poured into Parents Inc. ... We support the Families Commission as it provides a voice for the diversity that is found in New Zealand whānau and families." Hague says he had initial misgivings about the Families Commission, "because of its genesis in the right-wing Christian incarnation of United Future a couple of elections back." However, he says he has been impressed with the work that it has done, "building resilience and protecting the most vulnerable." approached the National leader several weeks ago for comment on the proposal, asking for detail of how such a funding scheme would be targeted, administered and monitored. We have received no acknowledgement or response from Key's office. It is "unlikely that any worthwhile safeguards could be built into a funding arrangement with groups like this, says the Greens' Hague. "Fundamentally these funding contracts for social services need to be founded on trust, and [organisations such as Family First and Parents Inc.] simply cannot be trusted to act against their repressive nature."    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Thursday, 23rd October 2008 - 11:36pm

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