21 Oct 2020

New Zealand's new LGBTQ MPs make Parliament most rainbow in world

8:10 am on 21 October 2020

New Zealand now holds the title of the most rainbow Parliament in the world, going by the percentage of LGBTQ MPs.

Rainbow flag flies outside Parliament.

Rainbow flag flies outside Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Twelve LGBTQ people won seats in the weekend's election - that's 10 percent of the 120 MPs.

By comparison, the United Kingdom - the former title holder - has 45 openly gay members in its 650-member House of Commons, or 7 percent.

In New Zealand, Labour has eight LGBTQ MPs and the Greens have four - an increase of three in the Labour Party and two for the Green Party since the last election.

When Tim Barnett was elected to Parliament in 1996, he was the only openly gay MP and just the third in the country's history.

It made going to Parliament as the Labour MP for Christchurch Central a lonely experience.

"It was MMP it was a new system, I was fresh to the institution, one of the New Zealand First MPs said homophobic things in his maiden speech so I had to address that."

Barnett is originally from the UK - which until Saturday was the world's most rainbow Parliament - but he says New Zealand has been one step ahead for a while now.

"I worked full time in lesbian and gay rights in Britain so I was working across the spectrum to encourage members of Parliament to be open about themselves because they were role models.

"We've just gone way ahead of them now in the laws that we've produced over the years, lucky New Zealand takes over and gets it right in a much better way."

In 2013, New Zealand became the 13th country in the world to allow same sex marriage.

The sponsor of the Marriage Amendment Bill, Labour Party MP Louisa Wall, is also making her way back to Parliament.

Labour MP Louisa Wall in Albert Park before Our March for Auckland Pride 2020.

Louisa Wall. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

For her, the increase in rainbow members is a proud moment for Parliament and will be a catalyst for change.

"We have come a long way and for me it is about representative democracy. We reflect our larger New Zealand population.

"We're able to find solutions and work with our community to better address discrimination which still occurs."

She says LGBTQ health care and putting an end to conversion therapy are big priorities for the new Labour government.

"That phenomenon we now know is incredibly harmful we I believe have a mandate to ensure some of these priorities."

That's something echoed by the new Green Party MP for Auckland Central, Chloe Swarbrick.

"There's still obviously a whole lot of work to go, representation is one thing but policy change is another and you now have a very firm large majority in Parliament committed to banning conversion therapy, I think that's a very obvious choice."

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 Chloe Swarbrick Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

National now has 35 members in Parliament, none of whom are openly gay.

ACT also has no openly gay representatives since its candidate Stephen Berry resigned back in July.

  • Labour promises ban on conversion therapy, rainbow mental health funding