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Thursday, February 10, 2005

Transgender rights bill bizarre, say Opposition MPs

Stuff.co.nz
10 February 2005
By DANYA LEVY

Proposed laws to stop discrimination against transsexuals, transvestites and cross dressers were yesterday slammed by Opposition MPs as bizarre, foolish and wrong.
Transsexual MP Georgina Beyer is proposing the Human Rights (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill which will prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender identity.
The Human Rights Act already bans discrimination on other basis such as race or sex.
The member's bill would protect hundreds of inter-sex New Zealanders - those born hermaphrodite but reassigned the wrong sex - and thousands of transgender people, Ms Beyer said.
The bill would halt any barriers to welfare, justice, education, health and employment for the "minority within a minority" section of New Zealand.
"If we want these particular sectors of society to be able to fully function in society, then they deserve protection," she told NZPA.
People had a right to identify as being transsexual, Ms Beyer said.
"I am a transsexual: not a man, not a woman per se, although I tend to that side, obviously.
"This will not make me the third sex."
It was often assumed transgender people were protected under homosexual law reform, she said.
"But they were not. There is nothing specifically written in the law.
"This bill will take it beyond doubt."
National MP Richard Worth said the bill had far reaching implications.
"This is a stunning first to contemplate discrimination on gender identity," he told NZPA.
"I think it is bizarre in the extreme to contemplate that cross dressing will be an approved form of dress in the military, in the police and in the prison service."
The "foolish" legislation should be abandoned, Mr Worth said.
ACT MP Stephen Franks called the bill a "grab at political privilege which should not succeed".
It was an attempt to for another category of people to gain separate rights the majority of New Zealanders didn't have.
The Human Rights Act in its present form was wrong in its approach to gender matters and sexual identity, he said.
"It says there are some category of human behaviour or relationship that it is illegal to laugh at, or criticise, or decide not to associate with," Mr Franks told NZPA.
"As a male lawyer, I just have to endure lawyer jokes, and I endure jokes about aging white males.
"It's absolutely proper, that's what free society is."
Decisions on whether the member's bill will be voted on as a conscience issue or by party vote have not yet been made.
However, Ms Beyer said she has had support from the Greens and members of the Labour caucus, and United Future had indicated support for a first reading.
But it faces a lengthy process as member's bills are only debated every second Wednesday and there are five bills to be debated before it gets a turn.

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