GABA strongly expressed its concerns about the Mayor’s reasons for signing this letter and sought explanation on the contradiction from his election statements on the Civil Union Bill. He said that, while he like some other politicians (e.g. Don Brash), had “changed his mind” about the Bill during the debate, he would be fully accepting of the Bill and the Council would implement any relevant aspects of the Bill. Now that it was law he would not continue to oppose it. In reflecting on the degree of damage this has done to his reputation and relationship to our community the Mayor said, “I accept that unfortunate perceptions were created by the letter sent on the Civil Union Bill, and I deeply regret offending members of the gay community and any other communities that have been hurt.” He went on to say the his position is clear, he is “inclusive of all parts of the rich diversity of the communities that make up Auckland City including the gay community”, and stated that he will make every endeavour to build bridges.
Following a vigorous discussion about the source, validity and accuracy of the statistics quoted in the letter, Mr Hubbard said that he was very concerned when he heard the statistics that were presented in the draft letter and therefore was prepared to sign the letter. He explained this by saying that, “I took them to be accurate and given that my concern for the young children of our city is deep, I found the statistics alarming”. GABA’s Johnny Givins pointed out to the Mayor that the statistics date from the 1980’s, are from the UK court records, refer to single parent families, make no reference to gay parents and contradict a vast set of international research on gay families. GABA’s Gresham Bradley pointed out to the Mayor that his signing of the letter could inadvertently trigger violent acts towards of children of gay parents who routinely suffer from bullying and teasing in schools, and also suggested that the Mayor had been “duped” by fundamentalist Christian influences who had deliberately given Mr Hubbard misleading and prejudicial information to further their anti-gay campaign. Mr Hubbard was disturbed at these ideas and has responded saying that he “accepts that people are saying that these statistics were misleading and he will look at additional research information”.
GABA has agreed to help provide the Mayor with more complete information on the subject of gay parenting. Mr Hubbard said that his own views are “quite conservative about the traditional family”, but he accepts that “most parents in all types of relationships provide positive love and care for their children. Regrettably some children from all types of relationships are not well cared for, and these are the ones I am most worried about, and want to help.” GABA has suggested and the Mayor has agreed in the light of the Bill to ask the Chief Executive to review Auckland City’s policies on gay and lesbian employees.
The Mayor acknowledged that his understanding of the issues around Civil Unions and the companion omnibus bill, scheduled for passage in the New Year, was not great. He agreed to GABA’s offer to invite Tim Barnett and others to keep him informed about legislative changes and research around equal rights. Mr Hubbard agreed to consider formally revising his position as stated in the signed letter of contention following these meetings and in light of the reliable statistics GABA will help provide for his consideration.
Finally, as part of his ongoing inclusive approach the Mayor said that he was “keen to include GABA in the new Partnerships Committee processes chaired by Councillor John Hinchcliffe”. GABA President Richard James said that he “welcomes the opportunity to provide the mayor with accurate information and opportunities to meet and talk on an ongoing basis and that GABA looks forward to participating in City decisions relating to our community. However, we have made it very clear to Mr Hubbard that he must retract his signature of this letter and everything that it implies about us as parents, families and equal citizens of this city and our country, before any kind of ongoing engagement can be considered”.
GABA will be pursuing this matter into the New Year and expects to achieve resolution by the end of January.