Homosexuals say prejudice still exists

Protesters send Russia gay rights message

IAIN SCOTT
Last updated 12:00 14/02/2014
Manawatu Lesbian and Gay Rights Association (Malgra) vice-president Andrew Leipst

FIGHTING FOR RIGHTS: Manawatu Lesbian and Gay Rights Association (Malgra) vice-president Andrew Leipst.

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Gay, lesbian, and transgendered New Zealanders have more rights than their Russian counterparts, but a spokesman for gay rights says they are not yet truly equal.

Manawatu Lesbian and Gay Rights Association (Malgra) vice-president Andrew Leipst said yesterday even though New Zealand law now recognised same-sex marriage, prejudice still existed in society and the battle for gay rights was not over.

"Walking down the streets holding hands, it's still a bit awkward," he said. "There's still bullying and calling out names. I've had people shout at me and throw things.

"There's still a bit of prejudice. People fear what they don't know."

Wearing drag, Mr Leipst, also known as Ruby Dax, was at the Lush cosmetics store in The Plaza in Palmerston North yesterday, helping promote Sign of Love, a photographic petition for gay rights in Russia. Last year Russia passed a law banning "propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations" and the country imposes fines on those holding gay-pride rallies.

The New Zealand Parliament unanimously passed a motion last month in support of gay rights in Russia.

Lush customers were invited yesterday to have themselves photographed with a triangle drawn in pink lipstick on their skin. The photographs are to be sent to the Russian Government as a protest.

"We live in a country where we see things on TV that represent gay people in a positive way, but in Russia there's nothing," he said.

Instead, gay, lesbian and transgendered people in Russia were being beaten up and people visiting the country for the Winter Olympics in Sochi would either be endangered or forced to "live a lie".

Store manager Rita Allsopp said Lush believed everyone deserved equal opportunities and it had always supported gay rights.

"Everyone should be able to love anybody," she said.

The company had been participating in the protest throughout the country, and the petition had been available in the Palmerston North store all week.

Mrs Allsopp had invited Malgra to help promote it yesterday to coincide with the store's evening Valentines Day party and the Winter Olympics.

"We've had quite a lot of people taking part. We've had our triangles on as well while we've walked around, which prompted people to ask what it was about, and a lot of them came in to do it."

Mr Leipst said he was aware of people who thought it was Russia's problem to deal with.

"But I think if that sort of thing was happening in New Zealand people would be appalled."

In addition, he said, gay people saw themselves as a family and supported each other.

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- Manawatu Standard

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