MP: Homophobic Trump administration inspired me to come out
A New Zealand MP has come out publicly after being inspired by Donald Trump and an pastor’s anti-LGBT rant.
Speaking to TVNZ, National Party MP Paul Foster-Bell cited the US election result – with President-elect Trump packing his cabinet with anti-LGBT voices – as one of many factors that prompted him to open up about his sexuality.
He said: “It was the events of this year — you know, a homophobic administration in the US being elected, the rise of the right in Europe, but more recently that outrageous tirade from [New Zealand pastor] Brian Tamaki that really made it clear to me that I had a moral obligation to speak out and to use the platform I have, particularly as a government MP.”
Church leader Brian Tamaki shocked many with an outburst last month, after a fatal earthquake struck the country and killed two people.
Tamaki claimed: “The earth can speak. Leviticus says that the Earth convulses under the weight of certain human sin. It spews itself up after a while – that’s natural disasters. Because nature was never created to carry the bondage of our iniquity.”
“The churches [in Christchurch] allowed all sorts of activity you wouldn’t dare to imagine. If I’m bulldozing your ignorance, good. Because there were churches there that weren’t churches. They were actively involved in homosexual practice, homosexual priests.”
Responding to the pastor’s comments, Mr Foster-Bell said: “It’s actually throwing petrol on a fire when you send out a message that gay people are very similar to murderers, they’re sinners, and they’re creating natural disasters.
“You and I can dismiss that as intelligent adults as just being ludicrous, but for those kids, that’s actually a really hurtful thing at an already difficult time in their life.
“We’re talking about young teenagers who have actually a four times higher risk of depression and of suicide. So I think we had a moral obligation to speak up as a society.”
“You think you’re entitled to a private life and it’s no one else’s business, that’s fine, but when you see these problems out there and they’re exacerbated by people like Mr Tamaki, we have to stand up.
“We have an absolute compelling moral obligation, particularly as a gay MP, to do what we can to help those kids, those vulnerable kids, who are at risk.”
Mr Foster-Bell, who is the vice chair of Rainbow Wellington and serves on a cross-party group on LGBT rights, said his reveal likely would not come as a surprise to his colleagues.
He added: “That outrageous tirade from Mr Tamaki… really made it clear to me that I had a moral obligation to speak out and to use the platform I have, particularly as a government MP.
“The opposition have a number of gay MPs, but, actually, it’s important that within the team that’s running the country we also have that community represented, and I want to take a leadership role there.”
Mr Foster-Bell, a former diplomat, also opened up about the difficulties of his postings in countries where homosexuality is illegal, as an openly gay man.
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He said: “My overseas postings were in the Middle East in places like Iran and Saudi Arabia, where if you were an openly gay diplomat there, you’d risk perhaps being made persona non grata; that is, put on the next plane out of the country, booted out and lose your job.
“Worst still, the person who you were with is a criminal. That person could be executed, have parts amputated. It’s horrific the treatment of gay people in some countries of the world. So that was a challenge, and that’s why for that part of my career I was discreet.
“That was a necessary level of discretion. But it is worrying when you think if there was a possibility you might fall in love with somebody and that could lead to that person being killed or imprisoned, it’s a huge worry. And in some ways it made me more passionate in other areas of my job, like actually delivering strong messages on human rights to those regimes.”
Asked if he had experienced heartbreak because of the laws in the countries where he served, he said: “Yes.”
“I don’t want to go into the details of that, partially because people are still unsafe. People who are back in those countries are still unsafe.”