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Love that spoke up - and won

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    Love that spoke up - and won - 8-Jul-2006
    In New Zealand politics, homosexuality seems to have gone from being the love that dare not speak its name to being the love that isn't even a talking point.

    It is a far cry from 20 years ago, when on July 9 the passage of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill through Parliament was accompanied by bitter and divisive debate.

    Today Parliament has four gay MPs and one transsexual - a rainbow connection which would have been unthinkable when MPs debated law reform. An indication of how much the country and its ruling institution have moved on is that in the 2005 election National, traditional party of the morally conservative voter, quietly and without fuss elected gay lawyer Christopher Finlayson to Parliament.

    Mr Finlayson was reluctant to talk about his sexuality and said it was only ever an issue when journalists asked about it.

    His view - that it had never been an issue and sexuality was only one take on a person - was echoed by Parliament's other gay MPs, who said that 20 years on from law reform they seldom found their personal lives under scrutiny.

    "People are past it," Labour MP Maryan Street said.

    Ms Street's sexuality had been public knowledge for years before the former Labour Party president stood for election in the Taranaki/King Country electorate.

    "The only person who raised it, to my knowledge, was an Exclusive Brethren woman who told lies about me to others," she said.

    "My main opponent, Shane Ardern, ran a dignified campaign based on the issues, not the person. It was a sign of the maturity of the electorate in my view that it was not an issue or a consideration."

    Ms Street came to Parliament in 2005 via the Labour list, as did Georgina Beyer.

    However, the transsexual MP had previously won over the conservative voters of the Wairarapa and twice won the seat for Labour.

    Her past was no secret so it had never been a political issue, she said.

    Chris Carter said his sexuality had not been a negative issue for his career, which has seen him become a Cabinet minister.

    Labour colleague Tim Barnett agreed and said there was now overwhelming public acceptance that gays and lesbians were a fact of life.

    However, Ms Beyer warned that the Civil Union debate had shown there was still a degree of prejudice against gays and lesbians. She called it a timely reminder to the queer community.
    Ref: - NZ Herald


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