Editor’s note: This article will appear in the April 24 issue of Gay Express, a newspaper that covers LGBT issues in New Zealand.
By Sarah Murphy
Louisa Wall is a woman who holds a special place in our all of our hearts. A champion of GLBTI rights, she is a woman who has fought so very hard to proudly walk each and everyone of us down the isle.
Absolutely humbled by the aroha she received on the night of the third reading, Louisa says there was an overwhelming sense of pride that filled the air.
As the final vote was read aloud, the crowded public gallery stood en masse to sing Pokarekare Ana, an unheard-of gesture outside of treaty settlement legislation and a sign of utmost respect.
In a single moment we became equal under the eyes of the law, with marriage equality for all.
But the magnitude of this momentous occasion extends far beyond the issue of marriage. We not only gained recognition under the eyes of the law, we were offered hope.
The very next day Louisa received an email from a university lecturer who told her of the many students who felt empowered to come out after the bill passed.
“That inspires me; we have changed the environment for people to be able to be proud of who they are and actually to be embraced, valued, respected, for who they are, which is fundamental.”
Louisa wanted to take the opportunity to express her heartfelt appreciation and gratitude for the overwhelming support of the GLBTI community, saying: “I really want to congratulate us on our ability to stand up, to advocate for ourselves, for each other and also our ability to network with like-minded New Zealanders who believe in social justice, who believe in human rights, who believe in collectives working together. I just really want to thank everybody because this has been a team effort, not only in Parliament but outside of Parliament, we did it and so congratulations!”
As an equally important partner in the push for marriage equality, Kevin Hague says he felt sheer elation the moment the final vote was read out.
Softly spoken and humble in nature, Kevin’s passion has been eloquently conveyed throughout the course of the campaign. His heartfelt speeches have warmed our hearts and brought tears to our eyes. We cannot deny how lucky we are to have such a fierce advocate for the rights of our community.
Many of us have grown up knowing nothing other than the freedoms afforded by homosexual law reform and this was reflected by the position we took in the marriage equality campaign. Kevin says that the differing perspectives shone through in the submissions made to the Select Committee. GLBTI youth for example found it “utterly bizarre” that there would be law that treats people differently because of their sexual orientation.
“For us older ones that’s wonderful and refreshing and fantastic, but its just hard for us to hold that view without a sense of almost resentment or bitterness towards that historic injustice.”
As someone who remembers all too well the struggles of the past he says, “I think its fantastic that we have generations coming through who are not weighed down with that. I don’t wish the hurt that we’ve experienced to be superimposed on the experience of our young people.”
Just as Louisa has done, Kevin too gives credit to the honesty, passion and bravery displayed by our community and says, “while we will get the applause actually the honour and the credit needs to go to the community, so thank you.”
Of course, this campaign has only been strengthened by the support of our straight allies such as Tau Henare.
A staunch supporter of marriage equality and a proud member of the National Party, one would assume that Tau might have come up against some backlash from his colleagues on the right, but Tau says despite what you may think, he didn’t really find this to be the case apart from “a bit of well intentioned ribbing.”
He says he is so very proud of the work Louisa has put into the marriage equality campaign. “She’s not the dyed-in-the-wool Labour MP that a lot of us think she is; she’s hard core human rights. I look at her and think ‘maverick’ and this place needs a few of them, otherwise you just slip into the mould of a nobody, really. She’s got character and its cool; I love her for it.”
To us, his GLBTI friends, he extends his congratulations: “Welcome to the mainstream.”
From three different fronts they converged with a single vision. They did it because it was right. They did it for the health of every community, straight or gay. They did it for the future of New Zealand – for one and for all.