Thursday, May 10, 2012

Meanwhile, in New Zealand

The screen shot above is a Tweet from Labour Leader David Shearer expressing his support for marriage equality. It came after an intense Twitter storm arguing the need for Labour and Shearer to unequivocally state their support. Shearer alludes to that in his Tweet, and The New Zealand Herald covered the day’s developments.

I was part of that Twitter storm, with Tweets flying all over the place too fast for me to keep up with (still, I made my points). It’s an indication of how so very many people are so very passionate about this issue. I could tell my side of the story, though the Herald more or less covers the basics; instead I want to make a further point: This is historic for New Zealand.

Former Labour Party Prime Minister Helen Clark wouldn’t let marriage equality move forward, instead pushing separate but somewhat equal civil unions. Her successor, Phil Goff, sidestepped the issue. Now, Shearer is clearly on the record as supporting marriage equality (and it’s certain that New Zealand’s vocal left will hold him accountable on that).

This also matters because the Prime Minister of New Zealand for the foreseeable future will be the leader of either the Labour Party or the conservative National Party. The current Prime Minister, National Leader John Key, voted against civil unions and when asked in December last year whether he’d vote for them now, if there was a conscience vote, he refused to answer. His deputy is a conservative Roman Catholic who isn’t known for any friendliness toward GLBT New Zealanders.

So, there will be no change while National is in power. Indeed, Key has declared there’s “no clamour” for change because to the National Party, apparently, injustice can only be eliminated in response to popular demand, not because it’s the right thing to do (and already some Kiwis are organising to raise a clamour).

All of this means that a change of government offers the only chance for marriage equality to become reality in New Zealand. With Labour’s likely coalition Partner, The Greens, already on record as supporting marriage equality, Shearer’s leadership may make it happen.

So, David Shearer’s support is important. We have a long way to go, but this is a significant first step, and a very welcome one.

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