Friday, May 22, 2015

A reason to be cheerful

A new cross-party working group on LGBTI rights has been set up by MPs in the NZ Parliament to provide education, leadership and legislative progress on LGBTI rights. This is a very good thing, and should be praised. Some don’t see it that way, of course.

The working group was initiated by Green Party MP Jan Logie, and initially included 12 members from National, Labour, NZ First, Act, and the Greens. National Party MP Amy Adams invited all MPs to wear pink to show their support for Pink Shirt Day, and the photo above shows MPs from most of the parties in Parliament. It was posted by MP Lousia Wall, author of the marriage equalty law, on her Facebook Page.

The photo was met with opposition by those on the Left, of all things—you know, the people who have the most to gain from cross-party cooperation on LGBT issues—oh, wait, many of them are not, in fact, L, G, B or T. Never mind—ideological purity!

The Left’s argument seems to be, if a politician opposed marriage equality, they are forever branded as anti-LGBT. I think that’s stupid, shallow, and self-defeating.

First, politicians DO evolve: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and any number of NZ politicians prove that. And that means that we don’t really want to lock politicians into always being the narrow-minded folks they once were. Enlightenment is good, dammit.

But, let's assume that some politicians are anti-LGBT, and they’re happy for us to be, at best, second-class citizens. Yet those same politicians think bullying is really bad. Should we refuse to allow them to say that? Only stupid people would say so.

It takes some politicians longer than others to accept LGBT people as full and equal citizens. But if those same politicians recognise that bullying is evil, why shouldn’t we embrace that? It’s only a short hop to recognising our humanity overall.

In New Zealand, anti-discrimination is law. So is marriage equality. The question before us is, what else can we do to make sure that LGBT people are full and equal citizens? If a politician who formerly opposed our rights now opposes bullying, I see that as progress, not hypocrisy.

Obviously, politicians can do good things. And, sometimes, silly politicians can reform themselves and help our society to move forward. That ought to be celebrated as a good thing, not an opportunity for partisan point-scoring.

I’m among the most partisan people I know, but I applaud the creation of this multi-party group. Let me prove that. I think that Act Party Leader David Seymour was spot-on when he said, “We believe in the equality of all human beings and we still have legislative and policy work to do to realise those rights for LGBTI people.” Who doesn’t—apart from our true adversaries, all of whom are outside of Parliament?

Or, how about the right-of-centre NZ First Party. MP Denis O’Rourke said, “Last year a New Zealand group reported to the UN that there remain a number of barriers to the realisation of LGBTI rights in NZ. I think it’s important for MPs and parliament to consider those concerns.” He’s right, of course.

And, the National Party’s Paul Foster-Bell added: “A recent Westpac survey found discrimination is still rife in our workplaces as well, and an international survey has found disturbingly high levels of homophobia in sports in NZ. I’m proud to be working towards a solution to these shameful situations.”

The point is, fighting homophobia and anti-LGBT bias is NOT a partisan issue, and we should welcome allies from wherever they come. I’m truly sorry that some of our friends on the Left don’t understand that creating change is far more important than ideological purity, but I’m from the old school that understands this. I've always kept my eyes on the prize, and I’ve always been willing to work with anyone who can advance the rights of LGBT people—party doesn’t mater.

So, I applaud the cross-party working group, and I hope they do great things. I also applaud all the MPs, of whatever party, who embraced Pink Shirt Day. For me, the politicians’ success will be determined ONLY by what they achieve, not by who they are, what party they represent, or whatever positions they once held on public policy issues affecting LGBT people. Tell me what you’re going to do, not who you were.

This is a reason to be cheerful, not to be churlish. I understand the difference.


rogerogreen said...

The only across the aisle thing we get in the States is Obama and the GOP pushing TPP!

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

Yes. My condolences.