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Sunday 09 April 2017


Retriangulating?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 13th December 2016

Retriangulating?

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Bill English has stated that if the Marriage Amendment Bill were up for a vote now, he would support it, although he remains an obdurate social conservative on abortion and assisted suicide. However, he has stated that he won't press his particular stance on either issue now that he is Prime Minister.

I welcome the new Prime Minister's statement. Evidently, he is made of sterner stuff than his former Australian federal counterpart Tony Abbott, and is well aware that civil marriage equality enjoys strong support in New Zealand, while not affecting long-term straight relationships. It's also good news that he won't try to weaken New Zealand's abortion laws while Prime Minister, rather akin to Jim Bolger, his fellow Catholic and former National Party Prime Minister.

As for the assisted suicide debate, it is just that- a debate. Some members of our own community, such as Phil Patston, Kevin Hague and Maryan Street, support decriminalisation, while others, such as Dr Huhana Hickey and many other disabled LGBT individuals, are just as adamantly opposed, concerned that any such effort would play into the hands of those who want to slash disability-centred health and social services. If Mr English wants to communicate his particular perspective on the issue, then he is welcome to do so.

It would also be useful if he took the opportunity to lay the minds of disabled New Zealanders to rest and review the sufficiency, scope and scale of existing disability services in New Zealand. Perhaps he would also like to consider the need for comprehensive anti-bullying legislation and sanctions in New Zealand, which would encompass ethnic minority, religious minority, disabled, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, low-income and other students at risk from physical, verbal and psychological abuse from their peers- especially that, given his devout Catholic beliefs, he must consider suicide a mortal sin and also a very real human tragedy for the family and whanau left behind.

Note that I have emphasised comprehensiveness here - while our own communities are concerned about LGBT youth suicide and self-harm, so are disability rights activists in their own context. Any anti-bullying legislation must be as encompassing as possible to meet the concerns of New Zealand's multicultural, pluralist modern society.

Whether the new Prime Minister will move forward on the issue of gender identity and anti-discrimination coverage compared to his immediate past predecessor is a moot point. After all, Jim Bolger was the Prime Minister who presided over the addition of sexual orientation (HIV status and disability) to the Human Rights Act 1993, and again, the issue of suicide prevention and social cohesion is important here. Because fewer jurisdictions have sufficiently trans-inclusive anti-discrimination laws, the transgender community is subject to increased vulnerability, harassment, intimidation and violence, as well as workplace, accommodation and service provider discrimination.

Moreover, Canada is currently amending its federal anti-discrimination legislation to include gender identity, as have all but one of its provinces (New Brunswick) beforehand, as has the United Kingdom, and as has Australia at the federal, state and territory level (apart from the sparsely populated Northern Territory). I am aware that the Vatican currently considers reassignment surgery, hormone treatment and the diagnostic category of gender dysphoria as prohibited for Catholics, but also that this is a comparatively new step, only inaugurated in 2003 in the final years of Pope John Paul II.

I am willing to give Mr English the benefit of the doubt on these issues. Perhaps productive dialogue might even be possible.

Recommended:

"Commission welcomes PM's position on marriage equality" Scoop: 12.12.2016:http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1612/S00143/commission-welcomes-pms-position-on-marriage-equality.htm

Meka Beresford: "Study shows 40% of transgender people have attempted suicide" Pinknews: 11.12.2016:http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2016/12/11/study-finds-40-of-transgender-people-have-attempted-suicide/

Craig Young - 13th December 2016

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