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Wednesday 08 October 2008

Barnett's farewell speech honours partner

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By Daily News Staff - 26th September 2008

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"Religious homophobia divides families"

Parliament wrapped up yesterday, so it was time for long-serving gay Labour MP Tim Barnett to say goodbye, in an uplifting valedictory speech which recognised the support of his partner Ramon Maniapoto.

Tim Barnett says goodbye (pic: 3News)

Barnett first stood for Parliament in the Christchurch Central electorate in 1996, when "mobile phones were as large as bricks and websites were places where spiders lived," he joked.

Sponsoring the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, and becoming the driving force behind the Civil Union Act 2004, were two of his biggest achievements as an MP, he told the House.

"They are laws with real-life outcomes. The date those outcomes include 600 fewer arrests of sex workers, the setting and monitoring of health and safety standards for the sex industry, and 2,814 people – led by John and Des up in the galley today – living and loving, secure in civil unions."

Barnett and fellow Labour MP Chris Carter were the only 'out' gay men in Parliament in the mid-'90's, but now there are "a good half a dozen rainbow MPs", the departing Minister pointed out. "Thankfully, being gay or lesbian will never be irrelevant. The journeys of self-discovery and public advancement that we travel give us special insights and strengths. The venom poured on us by more than a few in New Zealand and by the great majority in some countries shows that we are different, and the fact that some equate difference with threat means that discrimination ad oppression follow.

"Our sexuality comes alive with those we fall in love with. I say to Ramon, who is up in the public gallery today, my life changed forever after meeting you… Ramon, you have been with me for most of my time in Parliament… you have my rock and my sponge through this strangest of lifestyles."

Barnett concluded his speech with a quote from the Eminem song Lose Yourself: "You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime. You own it, you'd better never let it go."