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Ambassador's partner "sensitive issue" in Samoa

Thu 26 Nov 2009 In: International News View at Wayback

The gay man just appointed as American ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa will get a warm welcome in the Islands but the status of his partner will cause difficulties in Samoa, according to a highly placed observer of gay and faafafine affairs. David Huebner David Huebner, who will take up his post in Wellington before the end of the year, is an outspoken gay activist and lawyer with a partner of twenty years, Duane McWaine. He will be the first openly gay ambassador appointed to either NZ or Samoa. Diplomatic sources in Wellington say the pair's sexuality will not be an issue in this country as, since the appearance of gay MP Chris Carter and his very visible partner Peter Kaiser plus subsequent openly gay politicians and governmental staff this country has had time to adjust to treating same-sex couples equitably during official engagements. Samoa, however, is an intensely conservative Christian-influenced nation with little official experience of open homosexuality other than the faafafine culture. Homosexual intimacy is still illegal in Samoa. For over a month has been attempting to broach the issue of sensitivities to the sexuality of the new Ambassador and his partner, but has met with official silence from the Samoan government despite numerous phone calls and emails. This does not surprise Apia-based Roger Stenley, a government policy analyst and president of the Samoa Faafafine Association. "Ambassador Huebner himself will be accorded all the correct diplomatic status and will be warmly welcomed by all the Samoan people he comes into contact with," says Stenley. But he admits that the Ambassador's partner will be a "sensitive" matter. "An openly gay long-term partner is something we are not familiar with here," says Stenley. "We don't do partners openly." He says even the word 'gay' is not one which sits easily in mainstream Samoa. This, he believes, is reflected in the Samoan government's lack of response on the issue. "People in our government are not capable and confident enough to engage on this delicate issue," says Stenley, who laughs when the irony of the Ambassador Huebner's appointment hard on the heels of Samoa's banning of the movie Milk, the true story of an openly gay activist who rises to high political office, is mentioned.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Thursday, 26th November 2009 - 7:29pm

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