The big story out of the New Zealand elections is – yes, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden’s landslide win, but also that the country will get the gayest Parliament in the world.
Thirteen openly queer MPs or 10.8% of the parliament were elected to the 120-member NZ Parliament helping it beat the United Kingdom, which has 45 out members or 7% of the 650-member House of Commons.
Arden’s Labour Party which had five out MPs in the outgoing Parliament, will increase its numbers by another four. The out Labour MPs are finance minister Grant Robertson, Louisa Wall, Meka Whaitiri, Tamati Coffey, Kiri Allan, Ayesha Verrall, Shanan Halbert, Tangi Utikere and Glen Bennett.
The Greens will also increase their rainbow numbers by two. Jan Logie, Chloe Swarbrick, Elizabeth Kerekere and Ricardo Menendez March are the openly queer Greens MPs in the new Parliament.
“Numbers do matter,” MP Wall had told the Australian Associated Press before the elections. “We have a critical mass with high visibility and we’re seen as valid. If we do end up being the most LGBTQI representative parliament in the world, that would be simply great.”
The NZ Labour published its campaign policies for the LGBTQI community before the elections. This included enacting a law to ban conversion practices, ensuring the health care system is responsive to the needs of the the trans, intersex and gender diverse communities, prevent needless medical interventions on intersex children, $4 million in funding for mental health services catered to the LGBTQI community, work on measures to address homelessness in the community, create more safe and inclusive schools and work places, reform adoption and surrogacy policies.
Nationals, the main opposition had said that they do not have any openly queer MPs in winnable seats.
Here’s a look at the Out members of the NZ Parliament:
- Grant Robertson: Robertson (49) first entered Parliament in 2008 and has served as the Minister of Finance since 2017. He lives with his partner Alf and the two met while playing rugby for NZ’s first gay rugby team Krazy Knights.
- Louisa Wall: Openly lesbian MP Louisa Wall (48) has Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Hineuru and Waikato Iwi is a strong women’s rights advocate and was rugby player who represented New Zealand. Wall and Robertson led the campaign to legalise same-sex marriage in NZ in 2012. Wall married her partner Prue Kapua in 2015.
- Meka Whaitiri: Openly lesbian MP Meka Whaitiri (55), co-chairs the Labour Maori caucus.
- Tamati Coffey: Award-winning TV host Tamati Coffey (41), came out as gay after winning Dancing With The Stars in 2009. Last year he had a baby with his partner Tim Smith.
- Kiri Allan: 36-year-old Kiri Allan, a lawyer entered the Parliament for the first time in 2017. She married her partner Natalie Coates in 2016.
- Ayesha Verrall: An infectious disease physician Ayesha Verrall was an advisor to the NZ government on its COVID-19 response.
- Shanan Halbert: 37-year-old Shanan Halbert scored an upset in the 2020 NZ elections by taking the traditionally National seat of Northcote.
- Tangi Utikere: The deputy mayor of Palmerston North since 2016, 39-year old Tangi Utikere, who is of Cook Island descent, was the first non-European to be elected to the post. Utikere is openly gay.
Glen Bennett: First time candidate Glen Bennett (44), wrested the New Plymouth the seat for Labour after 12 years. Bennett is openly gay and got engaged to his partner Jon O’ Neill in November 2019 at musician Troy Kingi’s concert. During the campaigning for the elections, at one event Bennett was confronted by a member of the public over his sexuality and a senior Labour MP had to step in to stop it.
- Jan Logie: “Lefty, lesbian and feminist” is how Jan Logie described hgerself when she first became an MP in 2012. Logie championed the Domestic Violence Victims Protection Bill that was passed by the NZ Parliament, that among other protections allowed victims of domestic violence 10 days of paid leave so that they could escape from their abusive family member. She lives with her partner Kath.
- Chlöe Swarbrick: 26-year-old Chlöe Swarbrick created history winning the seat of Auckland Central for the Green Party – the second Green MP to win an electorate seat in NZ Parliament history. The significance of the win can be better understood when you realise that the first Green MP who won an electorate seat was 21 years ago. When asked about her sexual orientation Swarbrick previously said that she “liked people” and “I was never in the closet.” Swarbrick became engaged to her partner Australian Nadine Walker last year.
- Elizabeth Kerekere: LGBTQI activist and artist Elizabeth Kerekere (54) is of Maori descent. Kerekere identifies as lesbian.
- Ricardo Menendez March: An openly gay migrant of colour Ricardo Menendez March (31) who has led anti-poverty campaigns, will be the first Latin American MP in the NZ Parliament.