COMMENT:

If our Pride Parade is to be a celebration of inclusion and creating a stronger community, then our LGBT police must be allowed to participate in uniform.

The New Zealand Police has a chequered history with the LGBT community. I was lucky to grow up in a country where gay men weren't harassed and arrested as they were before 1986.

That is not to say those problems disappeared the day homosexual law reform became a reality 32 years ago. But the New Zealand Police have been working to change things. LGBT police men and women have led the charge.

Advertisement

Fighting to change a culture that historically has been unwelcoming for LGBT New Zealanders isn't easy. I imagine it's a very difficult and thankless task. The LGBT community as a whole owes a debt of gratitude to those who have fought to change the system. Those employees of the New Zealand Police force deserve our recognition, thanks and support.

Instead, the Auckland Pride Festival has chosen to do the opposite. The decision last week to ban LGBT officers from marching in their uniform was shameful, especially from an organisation that is supposed to be in charge of creating an event celebrating inclusion.

Auckland Pride has decided to effectively exclude a group of LGBT people from their own parade. The exact same people we are relying on to reform the police. This is a backward step, not one that will help us realise the changes we want to see.

A minority claim that some within our community would not feel safe with uniformed police is the reason Pride have offered for the ban - a ridiculous justification when the vast majority of those participating in the parade are also members of the LGBT community.

When the news was announced, I was expecting a polarised reaction from the LGBT community. I was somewhat surprised when the reaction was of overwhelming rage - at Auckland Pride.

It remains unclear how Auckland Pride decided to ban police from marching in uniform. The board claims to have consulted community members, yet given the reaction to the ban, it mustn't have been a very representative group they spoke to.

Instead, it appears a small group with extremist agendas are once again dictating to the rest of the community who can and cannot participate in our parade and festival, regardless of what the overwhelming majority of LGBT people want.

Similarly, a small group had prison officers banned from the 2017 parade, attempted to forcibly disrupt the Israeli embassy from marching in the 2014 parade and have asked for a number of corporations they don't like to also be excluded.

The names in the group may change, but the core arguments remain. "Pride is too corporate", "police and corrections oppress us all", and "Pride should not be used as an event to celebrate but rather protest".

Those views are outdated and out of touch with the vast majority of our community who pay taxes, raise children and have careers. The LGBT community is colourful and includes people from a range of political perspectives, religions and ethnicities.

Levi Joule is a former editor of New Zealand LGBT publication Express. He was the inaugural Auckland University Student's Association queer rights officer and is based in Sydney working in media there.