Image: Mayor Phil Goff and Councillor Richard Hills / Courtesy of Richard Hills
First published on Sunday the 6th of November, 2016, this piece comes in at number 20 in the top 30 most read Villainesse stories of 2016.
The LGBTQ+ community in New Zealand has accomplished many great things, and has recently celebrated another exciting milestone during the recent local body elections, during which Auckland elected its first openly gay councillor, Richard Hills.
With 12,651 votes in total, Hills will work with former Labour Leader and newly elected Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, along with 19 fellow councillors in his position. The win makes Hills the first openly gay Auckland councillor since the Supercity was established in 2010.
As a gay man, Hills says his sexuality did not impact his campaign, which was based on positivity. "At first I hadn't considered that my sexuality was significant until media started asking me questions, and for me it isn't significant, it's just life. But for many people, especially the many young people who see me getting elected to the council of our biggest city and my sexuality not being a barrier to that, it is quite important.”
He has a strong history of advocating for the LGBTQ+ community, with a particular and important focus on youth issues. Just recently he was awarded the Sir Edmund Hillary Youth Achievement Award from the Graeme Dingle Foundation for his contributions to youth and community.
“Who you love or what gender you identify as shouldn't have an impact on what career you want even if that career happens to be voted on by thousands of people, I hope to also make sure the council is more inclusive than ever, I'm excited about it,” he told Villainesse.
The news follows New Zealand’s fairly recent decision to legalise same-sex marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples in 2013. Gay rights have been a major political issue since the Homosexual Law Reform debates. The Civil Union Act was actually opposed by nearly half of Parliament. Yet throughout history there have been a number of gay and lesbian Members of Parliament in New Zealand. The first LGBTQ+ MP to be elected was Chris Carter, who became the first openly gay MP when he came out shortly after his 1993 election. He then became New Zealand's first openly gay Cabinet Minister in 2002. Following Carter, Maryan Street was elected as New Zealand’s first openly lesbian MP in the 2005 election.
But back to local politics: With his historic election victory, there is no doubt that Hills has opened up a vast new array of opportunities for LGBTQ+ people, promoting gay rights in the workplace and providing us with the inspiration we need to become successful in life no matter what our sexuality/sexual orientation may be.
Here’s to Councillor Hills!