Council tones down 'gayness' for Rugby cup
A gay community representative claims the Hamilton city council in New Zealand does not want “international eyes on Hamilton and its gayness” while the town hosts the Rugby World Cup.
Hamilton's annual Gay Pride week, commencing on September 17, coincides with the Rugby World Cup tournament happening across New Zealand and Gay Pride organisers claim Hamilton council wants artworks for the GLBTI event away from main areas.
Hamilton Pride chairperson and Waikato University associate professor Lynda Johnston said she approached the council in August about hanging rainbow coloured, knitted graffiti decorations along a main thoroughfare at Victoria Bridge.
Johnston said she received a response saying the council refused permission because of the Rugby World Cup and suggested the flags be hung at a sculpture in a less visible area.
Johnston said the council had previously been very supportive of the gay community and its initiatives.
“I do think that the council is in a bit of a quandary because of their obligations to the Rugby World Cup. And probably too that they don’t want international eyes on Hamilton and its gayness,” she told NZ Herald.
Johnston said places the community had used before, such as Victoria Bridge and Garden Place, were pre-booked for Rugby World Cup activities.
“I think that it certainly feels like we're being pushed into our little gay zone of the city rather than occupying a much more open space where lots of commuters and walkers would go past on the bridge. It feels like we’re only allowed a little spot rather than a much more public space where it would have been.”
“I think there may be a bit of squeamishness going on there about what to do with the gays and lesbians during the Rugby World Cup.”
Johnston has meanwhile filed the required applications for permission to use the site suggested by Hamilton council and is waiting that permission to be granted.
“It's important that the flags are flown in a public space where people can join in the celebrations. It’s in the rainbow colours, which have become a long-standing symbol of gay laureate and gay freedom. And it will be a splash of colour to remind those of us who know that symbolism, that we can be proud of who we are, and can be out in public and claim some space,” Johnston said.