Levi Joule examines the clarity behind notions that a gay Labour leader
would harm Labour’s standing with Maori and Pacific Island voters.

With nominations closing today in the Labour party leadership contest, there is set to be only three contenders. List MPs David Parker, Andrew Little and Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson are the three men hoping to become the next Labour leader.

Just as in the 2013 leadership contest,  Grant Robertson’s sexuality has again been made an issue by the mainstream media.

Most recently the claim was made that Robertson’s sexuality would be problematic amongst Labour’s traditional Maori and Pacific base. 


Is there any evidence to support this claim?

A 2011 Research New Zealand poll showed that Maori and Pacific Islanders  were in fact more likely to be supportive of same sex marriage than European New Zealanders. Yet the homophobic claim continues to be made. 

There were numerous pundits claiming that the Marriage Equality legislation introduced by Manurewa MP Louisa Wall in 2013 would erode Labour’s support in safe red seats such as Manurewa. Wall’s National
party opponent even attempted to highlight the issue during the recent election campaign. Not that it helped the Nats cause, the votes in Manurewa were barely any different to what was achieved in 2011.

Louisa Wall was a strong supporter of David Cunliffe’s leadership.

When David Cunliffe was in the middle of his brief re-run for the leadership, and visited a Pacific Island dominated Catholic church in South Auckland, claims were automatically made that it was a pitch for
the ‘homophobe vote.’
The church was in South Auckland and the 
congregation was brown. Must be homophobic right? Would this same accusation would have been thrown at Cunliffe had he visited a Pakeha dominated church of the same denomination in say Mt Eden?

This is not only an issue limited to the Labour leadership contest however. The notion that Maori and Pacific are inherently homophobic is a troubling discourse that runs throughout our community and it needs to
be tackled and exposed for the myth that it is. It is damaging to those that happen to be both GLBT and Maori/PI.

If those who continue to make such claims want to support it with some evidence, then the conversation might be worth having. Right now, they have none.

 Article | Levi Joule