Former New Zealand Member of Parliament Katherine O'Regan has apologized to the transgender community for not protecting us when changes were made to the New Zealand Human Rights Act in 1993.
In 1993, as Associate Minister of Health, O'Regan led the amending of the Human Rights act to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and having organisms in the body which might cause disease.
New Zealand's transpeople are still lobbying for Human Rights Act protections. The Human Rights Commission's Transgender Inquiry called for such inclusion in 2008. But the Government claims the 1993 changes were sufficient and specifically mentioning transgender people is "unnecessary".
O'Regan was speaking at the opening session of the National Marriage Equality Conference at Parliament. She said that including gender identity was considered in 1993 but discarded.
We did discuss it a lot, but we knew we were only going to get this far this time. We knew the House would only go so far and rather than lose it all, we had to lose something.O'Regan said that now she wishes it had been included and expressed her hoped that it would be addressed soon. Then she expressly apologized to transpeople for not including us in the 90s.
Apologizing to the transgender community is something I cannot recall happening before.
O'Regan was part of a roll-call of individuals who advanced GLBT rights in New Zealand. Fran Wilde, who led the Parliamentary decriminalization of homosexuality in the 80s, paid tribute to all those who came out and helped push the law changes through.
It was visibility that made this happen.Wilde also praised Louisa Wall, whose marriage equality law is now being considered by a select committee.
More and more gay men came out. There was a shift in views as people realised ‘ordinary Kiwis’ were gay.
The fundamentalist churches were just on the rampage. It was scary what they were doing.
[It is] another part of the jigsaw puzzle that we have to put together in this country.Wilde said that there is still work ahead. She included the way transgender people are treated by the law, saying that gay law reform was a lynchpin to start the equality movement, but that there was still some ways to go.
Wilde also called on the LGBTQI communities to get behind MP Wall as she leads the charge for marriage equality. Recent reports out of South Aukland, which Wall represents , make it sound as if the entire Polynesian population is against her.
Headlines out of South Auckland in recent weeks have focused on gatherings such as the anti-gay gathering of Tongan churchgoers and the campaigning against marriage equality by Wall's fellow Labour MP from the neighbouring Manurewa electorate, Su'a William Silo. Both electorates have a high proportion of residents of Pacific Island origin whose strong allegiance to their conservative Christian churches is engendering opposition to equality for glbti people.Wilde said that lack of visibilty of a pro-equality presence in South Aukland could create a groundswell against Marriage Equality and harm Wall's chances of being returned to Parliament in the next general election. WIlde called for counter-demonstrations against the anti-equality forces.
Wall said that opposition to LGBTQI equality was not universal in South Aukland. On a visit to Otara Markets on Saturday, she was told:
We love our takataapui whanau, we love our fa’afafine whanau. You’re being so brave, we support you, well done.Takataapui is the Maori word meaning a devoted partner of the same sex and is commonly used to refer to the western construction of LGBT or queer, but also includes cultural identity. The term was first included in Herbert Williams' Dictionary of the Maori Language in 1832, with the meaning "intimate companion of the same sex". It now means a non-heterosexual Maori.
Whanau is the Maori word for "extended family". Fa'afafine is the third gender specific to Samoan culture. The Tongan word is fakafefine. The Maori word is whakawahine. The term is akava'ine in the Cook Islands and mahu in Hawaiian Kanaka Maoli culture.