Rainbow Labour is part of the New Zealand Labour Party. It started as a branch in Chris Carter's Auckland Waipareira electorate in 1997, just after Chris Carter had been narrowly defeated in the election the previous year. At about the same time, Tim Barnett, newly elected to Parliament as an openly gay man, started a Rainbow branch in Christchurch. During the next few years the branches expanded in size, with the Auckland branch becoming one of the largest in the Labour Party. This led to the formation of a Rainbow Sector Council within the Labour Party, which gave the branches a nationwide focus and co-ordinating body. In 2004, at a vote at the Party's Annual Conference, Rainbow Labour was invited to nominate candidates for a permanent representative position elected from the floor of Conference, on the Party's controlling body, the New Zealand Council.
Rainbow Members of Parliament (MPs) work closely with the Rainbow Labour Sector Council, and has included gay men Chris Carter, Tim Barnett, and lesbian MP Maryan Street, and until she resigned in 2007, transsexual MP Georgina Beyer. During 2006 Charles Chauvel became an MP when a vacancy arose; similarly Louisa Wall entered Parliament in 2008 following a resignation (although she was not re-elected at the general election later that year), and Grant Robertson was elected as the MP for Wellington Central in 2008. Louisa Wall re-entered Parliament on the resignation of Darren Hughes in 2011.
Issues Rainbow Labour has advanced within the Labour Party have included relationship property reform, human rights reforms, the Civil Union Act, which was passed in 2004, and the current Marriage Equality legislation which passed in April 2013.
In elections since 1999, the Labour Party has published pamphlets advertising "Labour's Gay Lesbian and Transgender candidates". This is thought to be a world first by a mainstream national political party.
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