Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Celebrating success and dismissing hate

Today the New Zealand Labour Party shared the above image on their Facebook Page. That was great in itself, but they also said this:
In light of the highly publicised comments of Logan Robertson, it's important to remember the great progressive gains that LGBT people have won over the past few decades. Labour has been a driving force of many of them – including Marriage Equality, Civil Unions, Homosexual Law Reform and the Property (Relationships) Amendment Act. We're about making New Zealand a fairer and safer place for all Kiwis.
They’re referring to the vile and disgusting anti-gay comments made by an extreme far-right self-appointed “pastor” who operates a “church” in his house. He’s not affiliated with any real Christian church, and he sounds uncannily like a truly vicious anti-gay preacher in Arizona. The NZ “pastor” has been strongly denounced here in New Zealand, most importantly by real Christians—the same cannot be said of the Arizona crackpot, by the way.

I made a decision to not give any more oxygen to that very disturbed man, so I haven’t commented on it here before now. I even considered redacting his name in the quote above, but the story’s been reported around the world now, and context matters; I felt that the remarks above wouldn’t make sense without the guy’s name, if for reasons of clarity if nothing else.

I like the fact that rather than merely joining the long line of people and organisations denouncing the “pastor”, Labour instead highlighted what it’s actually done to make New Zealand a better place for everyone, including LGBT Kiwis. When I shared the photo on Facebook, I said:
The New Zealand Labour Party's commitment to a society in which everyone gets a fair go—definitely including LGBT New Zealanders—is one of the reasons I'm Labour. They've delivered on their commitments. I still remember John Key telling The Big Gay Out crowd that his government was pro-LGBT because they hadn't repealed any pro-LGBT legislation—uh, gee, thanks, John! But I think I'll stick with the real thing.
I was referring to Key’s appearance at the 2011 Big Gay Out when he made his imbecilic remark. The next day, I pointed out how idiotic Key’s claim that the National Party had “a strong record of standing up for gay rights,” really was. Nowadays, National MPs who voted against marriage equality are highly ranked and are ministers in Key’s cabinet. On the other hand, Labour’s front bench includes none of the party’s marriage equality opponents in the top ten, and only one is ranked at all right now.

Labour has a proud record on LGBT rights, and enacting civil unions was only one of those things. That particular battle happened before I started blogging, so I didn't comment publicly at the time. Back then, I thought that, on balance, it was a good thing (that ol’ pragmatic politics). Now, I also think that the anti-gay rhetoric during the battle for the civil unions was actually worse than during the battle for marriage equality, something I attribute to the fact that it was eight years later, and Kiwis had already moved on from where they were in 2004.

And that’s why the remarks by that crackpot “pastor” were so shocking: Mainstream Kiwis just don’t talk like that—they don’t even think like that! Sure, we have our own home-grown bigoted arseholes like every other country has, but they’re very rare. I was initially concerned about the damage he could do by encouraging vulnerable LGBT people to commit suicide or by inciting violent people to attack or kill LGBT people. But the reaction from mainstream New Zealanders has been so great that I think this risk of harm from the hate speech from that “pastor” is now pretty much zero.

It’s often said that sunshine is the best disinfectant of hate speech, and we certainly got sunshine—and a breath of fresh air—this week in New Zealand. The Labour Party’s Facebook post also reminds us that securing the basic civil and human rights of LGBT Kiwis isn’t just a promise from them, it’s something they’ve repeatedly delivered on. That beats hatred and bigotry, every time.

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