3 Apr 2024

Rubbing out the rainbow

From The Detail, 5:00 am on 3 April 2024

White paint over rainbow crossings and protests against rainbow story times have left LGBTQIA+ community and allies furious. 

The rainbow crossing on Auckland's Karangahape Road was covered in white paint overnight. Rain overnight washed much of the paint away, but remnants could still be seen on the crossing, 28 March 2024.

Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

After a series of protests and threats against both library staff and performers, multiple Rainbow Storytime events have been cancelled.

It began in Rotorua, where councillors clashed over an upcoming library story time where drag queens Erika and Coco Flash were set to read books to children.

The opposition to these story times is primarily led by Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki, who said this type of event is inappropriate for children. But even after the events were cancelled, protests aimed at the rainbow community have continued, with the vandalism of two rainbow pedestrian crossings in Gisborne and Auckland last week. 

Police have charged people in the Gisborne incident, and say they're looking at it as a hate crime.

But Professor Peter Lineham - who specialises in the religious history of New Zealand and wrote a book about Destiny Church - tells The Detail that he doesn't agree with categorising these actions as hate crimes.

"That it was an unfriendly act? Certainly. But one of the interesting things for me was that it provoked a great deal of community resonance of joining together in support of LGBTQIA+ people." he says.

He says even Tamaki's protests formed part of New Zealand's rich heritage of protest - but that New Zealanders shouldn't be overly concerned about them.

"These simple acts of protest are not going to actually change society, they simply raise issues and encourage debate. If we were more healthy around accepting variety of debate I think we would see the Tamaki protest in perspective and not be so excited by them." he says.

Tamaki has promised to shut down not just these events, but the entire string of performances. He says it's not about suppressing the rights of the rainbow community, but rather about protecting children.

"A man dressed up as a woman is probably not a thing that most parents want their kids to be struggling with," he says.

"I believe we had to protect the innocence of our children and one way of doing that was challenging the councils and the library, [telling them] 'what you're doing is not acceptable and it's inappropriate'."

Lineham disagrees, and he also doesn't think people should see these latest incidents as threats, nor as a representation of a wider societal belief.

"Do not read the actions of Tamaki as a statement of broader society, they're not," he says. "The broader society has moved and is essentially supportive of the rights and the protection of LGBTQIA+ people."

Check out how to listen to and follow The Detail here.  

You can also stay up-to-date by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter