OnPoint by Keith Ng

Flying under the gaydar

One of my own favourite one-liners last year was a description of then-Young Labour President Conor Roberts as "the first openly-straight President in many years". Turned out to be a factually incorrect faux pas - Conor's immediate predecessor was straight. As gay-friendly as he was, I don't think he would have taken offence - though I imagine that his wife wouldn't have been too pleased with me.

But everyone took it in the spirit of jest in which it was intended. It's sort of an in-joke, really, the extent to which Labour Party activists are gay. It's not as if it was a big secret that I dug up - it's apparent at any sort of Labour gathering - Labour has a lot of gay people as members. In fact, you'd have to be pretty daft *not* to notice this.

Disclaimer: I was, once upon a time, a member of the Labour Party. Then I stopped being a member of the Labour Party. I have not been a member of any political party for five years.

This was an observation I made in my very early days, when I was still a card-carrying member, getting my first run-around of Parliament. But it wasn't limited to Labour. In fact, ACT, National and Alliance (back when it was a party) were all full of gay people. I reckon it's a pretty reasonable bet that there are a disproportionate number of gay people in political circles, across the spectrum.

Among the people quoted in Russell's blog yesterday was Grant Robertson. I should probably "out" him for those who don't know: He was Heather Simpson's second-in-command. Oh, and - even worse - he use to be a student politician.

So, okay Rosemary McLeod, there are, indeed, gay people at the highest levels of the system. And there are Labour MPs who are gay. And, I suspect, there are others who may have gay friends or associate with known homosexuals.

I actually think that it's important to acknowledge that there are many gay people in our political institutions. It's the truth. And they are trying to change the country - as most people involved in politics tend to be. And though they're not all actively trying to make the country more gay-friendly, many are.

But if this comes as a shock, then you obviously haven't been paying attention.

An entire generation of activists cut their teeth on the homosexual law reform. It's not a coincidence that a lot of those activists were gay.

It's also not a coincidence that many of those activists went on to find a home in politics.

The Destroyer of the Sanctity of Marriage, civil union, has only been around for a year. One year. It took nineteen years after homosexuality was decriminalised for the state to give legal recognition to gay couples.

In the absence of gay marriages and gay adoptions, is it really surprising that the gay-rights political movement still exists, is still active and still has an agenda to pursue?

But does fulfilling this agenda necessarily come at the expense of the bread and butter business of government? Well, can the government chew gum and walk at the same time? If Rosemary McLeod thinks that our politicians should be spending its time on hospital waiting lists/the power supply/poverty and nothing else, I would encourage her to read the Parliamentary Order Paper.

Top five member's bills:

1) Delete principles of Treaty of Waitangi (Doug Woolerton, NZ First)
2) Cap rates for homeowners (Rodney)
3) Whinge about RMA (Nick Smith, National)
4) Report on bird flu
5) Report on chicken welfare

Bah. The government bills are too dull and technocratic to make fun of. But the Mandatory Homosexuality (Be More Gay) Bill is not on the agenda yet. Nor, in fact, anything to do with gay, gayness, gaiety or gays.

To say that the efforts to make New Zealand gay or gayer is dominating this government's agenda would probably be something of an exaggeration, given that it's literally not on the agenda.