Jacinda Ardern becomes first New Zealand PM to march in gay pride parade

Prime minister joined a crowd of 25,000 in Auckland and called for more support for LGBTI people with mental health problems Jacinda Ardern has become the first New Zealand prime minister to walk in the country’s gay pride parade.

More than 25,000 people watched the parade in Auckland on Saturday night, cheering as the prime minister strolled down Ponsonby Road flanked by her finance minister, Grant Robertson, a gay man, and Louisa Wall, a Labour MP who is gay.

Although the prime minister did not partake in some of the more exuberant fashions, she got into the swing of festivities by dancing, taking selfies with admirers and bestowing hugs on members of the crowd.

Ardern said LGBTQI people in New Zealand still faced many challenges, including bullying, mental health problems and discrimination.

“Ultimately this is a parade about diversity and inclusiveness. And I’m really proud of the work the team has done to make that real over the years and in our laws,” Ardern told TVNZ.

“But we can’t be complacent. As long as there are kids in New Zealand, if they are LGBTQI, if they have high levels of mental health issues or self harm, that tells us that we still have work to do.”

The producer of the parade, Shaughan Woodcock, told the New Zealand Herald the prime minister’s decision to march in the parade was “very exciting” and a significant step forward.

“I think the overall message is that we are being led by a progressive government, a government that stands for all groups not just some,” Woodcock said.

“It also sends a very clear message that New Zealand is leading the way around basic human rights and human rights for our rainbow community, and that it is time for the other countries to step up.”

Over 50 floats were involved in the parade, including ones from New Zealand police, Rainbow Teachers and – for the first time – New Zealand Rugby.

Julie Anne Genter, a Greens MP and minister for women, also attended the parade, dressed in purple and riding her bike.

Genter, 38, announced on Sunday that she is pregnant, and intends to take six weeks off after giving birth in August, followed by six weeks working from home, after which her partner Peter Nunns would take over childcare full-time.

Genter is one of two candidates vying for the co-leadership of the Greens party, and said she told Ardern her pregnancy news after the prime minister told her she was expecting a child in June.

“It’s a bit exciting, and unexpected news, but I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to have yet another woman leading the way in this government and showing that it is possible for women to hold careers and have families at the same time,” Genter said at a press conference on Sunday.

by Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin
Source – The Guardian