New Zealand’s first openly gay Deputy Prime Minister has been appointed as part of the country’s most diverse parliament yet.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced Grant Robertson as part of the new leadership team after last month’s landslide election victory for Labour.
Almost half of the country’s current MPs are women, and around 10% are LGBT, ABC News has reported.
Robertson said he thought it was important for younger members of the LGBT community to see representation by people they identify with.
“I still get a lot of emails and messages from young gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people who look towards us to provide that kind of role-modelling,” Robertson said.
“So, I’ll keep doing my job the way that I’ve been doing it, but I’m very proud to have the role.”
Several Māori lawmakers have also been appointed to top positions, including Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Minister for Children Kelvin Davis.
Ardern said that all the positions had been assigned on merit.
“I think one of the amazing things about New Zealand is that we are often in a space now where all of these questions [of diversity] often become secondary,” the Prime Minister said.
“The representation is there. And that is not the first consideration.”
New Zealand has very progressive laws and protections for LGBT people.
The Human Rights Act 1993 covers sexual orientation as well as gender identity and expression.
The country has permitted same-sex civil unions since 2005 and same-sex marriage since 2013.
Anti-LGBT conversion ‘therapies’ remain legal in New Zealand and are thought to be common, but calls to criminalise these practices are increasing.
In 2018, Health Minister David Clark called conversion practices “abhorrent”.
The same year, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced that a conversion therapy ban could be considered as part of a reform to the Human Rights Act 1993.