Youth Parliament and Homophobia

Last week, New Zealand held a Youth Parliament, which is a gathering of young people held every three or four years. One young person is selected by each MP to represent them in this mock-parliament, and they go through the motions of parliament. It’s probably a very interesting experience for the people involved, and I think it’s a pretty neat concept.

This year’s parliament had an interesting moment. One young lady elected to make a speech about the equal marriage bill that recently passed into law. In it, she suggests that the New Zealand parliament has gone mad by introducing the legislation, and that gay people are not part of the ‘circle of life’. She has the gall to say that she does not intent to offend, which echoes the problem of sentences that start with ‘I’m not racist, but . . .’. Then she slips in a slippery slope argument, and finally sums up with the claim that “This fight is not one for equality and not one for rights”.

This speech was evidently offensive to many of her peers, which included at least one openly gay person. A decent proportion (reports say possibly over a third) of the people in attendance walked out.

I was deeply saddened that a young person could cling to such antiquated ideas, and I was proud of her colleagues for not sitting and silently accepting what she said. Those kids are the people I want leading us into the future – people who stand up to bigotry.

I’ve had it put to me that what this girl said was not homophobic, and that it was simply stating her belief. To that I say, her belief is homophobic. She explicitly states that this is not about equality or rights. I would argue that this means she does not believe that gay people deserve equality, nor do they have rights, or at least not the right to have their relationships recognised by the state in the way that heterosexual relationships are. She excludes them from the ‘circle of life’, a statement which may be technically true, in that homosexual couples cannot reproduce without some outside assistance, but its implications cut deeper, suggesting that gay people are not part of the natural world, and that they deserve to be excluded.

Fifty years from now, we’re going to look back on this girl, and on people like her, and shake our heads. They’re like the people who protested equal rights for black people in America in the middle of last century. They’re on the wrong side of history.

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