'Gaggle of gays' MP courted by gay lobbyists

By Viv Logie of the Greymouth Star

Labour list MP Damien O'Connor. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Labour list MP Damien O'Connor. Photo / Mark Mitchell

West Coast-Tasman Labour MP Damien O'Connor, who copped flak last year with his 'gaggle of gays' comment is now being courted by gays, ahead of the marriage equality bill.

Mr O'Connor, a stated opponent of the same-sex marriage bill, was wined and dined at a meeting in Greymouth last night by supporters of the same-sex marriage bill.

Today, he said while the conversation had been "good and worthwhile" he would not be changing his mind or vote.

In April last year, Mr O'Connor caused a furore when he withdrew from the Labour Party list in protest at his low ranking, declaring that it had been drawn up by "a gaggle of gays and self-serving unionists". Having refused a position on the party list, he went on to win back the West Coast-Tasman electorate for Labour.

He felt the wrath of many in the gay community, but also received support from Labour stalwarts on the West Coast, who rallied behind him, saying that he should not be made to apologise for the remarks.

A few days afterwards, Mr O'Connor did apologise to the Labour caucus for his choice of words, but stopped short of saying 'sorry'.

Runanga resident Paul Kearns, speaking on behalf of supporters of the same-sex bill who met with the MP last night at a Greymouth cafe, said they were "grateful" that Mr O'Connor had met with them and listened to what they had to say.

However, he would not comment further because they did not want to back him into a corner and wanted to give Mr O'Connor time to reflect on what was discussed.

The invitation was issued two weeks ago after he stated publicly he was "not comfortable" with the bill.

Today, Mr O'Connor said the group had not managed to sway him into supporting the bill.

He said he did not believe the discrimination and injustice was so great that it warranted a change in the legislation.

"In short, I have taken into account all of the facts and I believe that there are far more injustices that need to be addressed. For example, people who are disabled through accidents receive full support, while those disabled from birth do not. These injustices are the issues that need to be addressed."

Green Party list MP Kevin Hague, who is gay, is rallying support for the bill, while the third West Coast MP, National list MP Chris Auchinvole says he is keeping an open mind.

- The Greymouth Star

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