August 12, 2002 02:08am
New Zealand Government Appoints Openly Gay Cabinet Minister
(WELLINGTON, NZ) -- Prime Minister Helen Clark was planning to appoint New Zealand's first openly gay Cabinet minister when she announces the makeup of her government later this week.
Former teacher Chris Carter, a Labor lawmaker from the northern city of Auckland, said Monday he hoped his sexuality would not be an issue.
"I'd like to be defined by my efficiency, not my sexuality," he said. "I'm looking forward to representing the diversity of New Zealand."
Carter, who won his seat in western Auckland with a huge majority in July's election, has not yet been assigned a portfolio in Clark's new Cabinet.
A key aide to Clark in the last three-year parliamentary term, Carter said he welcomed the government's commitment to a proposed Civil Unions Bill which would allow same-sex marriages.
In 1993, Carter became the first openly gay lawmaker elected to Parliament. In 1995, during his first term in office, he traveled to the South Pacific's Mururoa Atoll to protest French nuclear testing there.
Voters in this liberal South Pacific nation of 4 million appear to worry little about the sexual history of their lawmakers. In 1999 and again last month, they elected Georgina Beyer, a former male prostitute and stripper who underwent a sex change. Beyer is believed to be the world's first transsexual lawmaker.