New Zealand has legalized gay marriage, but may still not be ready for a gay prime minister.
So said Georgina Beyer, considered to be the world’s first transsexual mayor and MP, in an interview following the announcement from gay Labour MP Grant Robertson that he’ll be running for his party’s leadership post.
Grant Robertson, currently the Labour Party’s deputy leader, confirmed he is in the running to be the next leader of the Labour Party after the current party leader David Shearer announced his resignation this week.
In 2011 when Shearer first took office, the Labour leader came out in favor of marriage equality and marriage adoption, saying civil unions are not enough.
Now Robertson is campaigning for the seat, saying: ‘I believe I can lead a party and a government that is principled, has vision and works with New Zealanders to give them hope and opportunity.’
A telephone poll conducted over the weekend asking which MP ‘would do the best job leading Labour into the next general election’ shows that Robertson ranks fourth favorite among total eligible New Zealand voters, and tied in third with Shane Jones among Labour Party supporters.
Beyer, who until 2007 served as an MP for eight years, said the Labour government isn’t prepared for a leader who is gay.
‘I don’t think we’re ready yet,’ she said.
‘It’s not because Grant isn’t capable, I think he’s very capable . . . but the stigma that rests over those of us who are out, proud and gay who get into public office becomes untenable because you never shake it off and you get pigeon-holed.’
Beyer believes the legalization of gay marriage, which came into effect in New Zealand on 19 August, will mobilize conservative politicians to the detriment of a gay PM.
‘I get the feeling out there that there’s a little bit of a backlash to what is being labelled social engineering that is being constructed, and I just fear that Grant would be laboured with a lot of that baggage.
Left-wing political commentator Chris Trotter said Robertson’s being gay shouldn’t be a problem.
‘Grant’s gayness is like Barack Obama’s blackness,’ said Trotter. ‘People tend to see right through it.’
TV presenter Alison Mau who is in a same-sex partnership said: ‘I think it would a great thing to have a gay prime minister.
‘I would hate to think that New Zealand voters would turn against somebody that was a proven and capable leader just because of his sexual preference.’
Labour Party nominations will close on 26 August, and elections will be held 15 September.