Sunday, February 20, 2011

John Key does not need the gay vote

I do not believe that John Key is a principled man. He might live by certain principles but just because he smiles and waves, perches on a wall to talk to tourists or calls an election 10 months out, does not make him a principled man. He is the Right Honourable Prime Minister of New Zealand and the Leader of the National Party but his stance on gay rights in New Zealand coupled with his unguarded outburst in Parliament about beneficiaries has finally what led me to believe that this man lacks principles. John Key was voted into Parliament and as Prime Minister with not only support but he continues to have the support of the public 2 years after the election. I don’t think that John Key has been instrumental in any measurable changes to the lives of Kiwis, yet the Kiwis love him.

This is a free country. We are entitled to love whomever we please even if that person happens to be John Key. The public adulation for this man is translated into polls and and these are touted by the Prime Minister in his jabs to the Opposition and are used as legitimising factors by the rest of his caucus. Unfortunately not everyone has the right to legitimately love whomever they please. While Civil Unions are legal in New Zealand, no thanks to the Prime Minister or a majority of his Cabinet, gay couples are not allowed to adopt children and they are not allowed to get married. Somehow religious people own marriage and no one else is allowed to have it unless of course they do it according to the will of the religious people. Here’s my problem with John Key – He thinks that by not rolling back gay rights that people fought to have he is doing them a favour and he should be entitled to the votes as a result. When asked if he would vote for the Civil Union bill now, he refused to answer. John Key is not only on the wrong side of history, he is proudly so. He is a straight guy with a wife and children who has no problem depriving others of the same right.

On Backbenches last week Chester Borrows (MP for Whanganui) said on the hero parade:

I’m not in support of a hero parade. Well, I am in support of a hero parade but I don’t think that’s a hero parade because actually they’re not heroes…Heroes are people like Willie Apiata. Heroes are people who have done something… I don’t think a hero is someone who wears leather shorts singing YMCA down Queen Street.

While John Key has no control over Borrows and he can say whatever he pleases, Mr Key is certainly not providing the kind of leadership that I would expect when it comes to gay rights in the year 2011.It’s not that anyone who happens to be gay is a hero by virtue of being gay, but what Mr Borrows doesn’t realise that it is a lot harder for someone to actually publicly assert they are gay when we continue to live in a homophobic society. Gay people don’t have a choice but to be gay. Apiata, heroic no doubt, chose to be in the military. I don’t need to comment on the attitudes that people have when talking about homosexuality or the language that is repeatedly used when talking about about gay men and women in many parts of this country. Homophobia is alive and well in New Zealand despite being a comparatively liberal country in many aspects. One only has to look at the recent news events to know that gays are still seen as peripherals in society rather than active members. I suppose heroism is a subjective concept but if one has to walk down the street without hiding who they are even though many have a unjustifiable negative view of who they are, then that person is a hero in my book.

As the law stands now, if one person in a gay relationship has a child, that child can grow up in that household and no one can do anything about it. But the other parent who in all other aspects is that child’s parent would have no legal rights over that child. Similarly gay parents are not ‘trusted’ to adopt children. We allow kids to grow up in unstable homes, homes that provide poor nutrition, single parent homes but two people of the same gender are not allowed to legally raise kids. That is unfair and surely Mr Key knows this to be true.

I am only writing this because as a straight person, I don’t want to be the white male who looking back 60 years form today regrets not fighting for the civil rights of blacks and women. I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history. I don’t want to have to explain to my future gay grandkids why I didn’t say anything when the government of the day blatantly made light of the plight of gay people. I don’t want to be the person that uses my faith as an excuse to make others feel like second class citizens.

If Mr Key wants gays to vote for him, he should fight for their equal rights under the law. But Mr Key is not going to do that because he doesn’t need the gay vote to win an election. So if he did make changes to his policies to take a stand for gay rights, he would have to do so on principle and not for votes. And John Key is not a principled man.

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