Freshman New Zealand Minister of Parliament Ricardo Menéndez March is one of 21 out gay lawmakers in the governing body, making it the queerest parliament on the planet. So it was only fitting, that the first generation immigrant from Mexico used the opportunity to offer a bold statement in his maiden speech. 1 News New Zealand reported the speech was well-received.
“In our queer community there is a saying that I love,” he said with a smile. “It goes ‘be gay, do crime.’”
After laughter bubbled about the chamber, March explained the significance of the saying.
“To me it means to be transgressive, to acknowledge that decision makers have created rules that criminalize our survival and our existence,” March explained before succinctly summarizing that “the rules were simply not made for us.”
March spoke not just as a queer man, but also as an immigrant who had experienced hardship, poverty, and discrimination due to his ethnicity and immigration status. He spoke from firsthand experience of the struggles immigrants face to find suitable housing, living wages, and equal rights and opportunities, and did not dismiss them as “abstract stuff” like some politicians.
March was born in Mexico City, but was raised in Tijuana, Mexico. He moved to New Zealand to attend university in 2006 and became involved with Green Party politics starting in 2014. He first ran for office in 2017 on the Green Party ticket, but placed too low to be given a seat in Parliament. The strong showing of the party in recent elections made him on of three new Green MPs members of Parliament.
The rights and financial hardships of immigrants and indigenous people took primary focus in his speech. After thanking the original inhabitants of New Zealand using their native tongue, he highlighted the difficulties and needs of these traditionally non-white communities.
“We talk about increasing incomes and public housing for all because we know what it is like to count your dollars before the next paycheck,’ he said, later adding
“While we were being blamed for buying up all the houses, we were also being blamed for bringing low-skilled, low-wage labor that didn't contribute to the economy — or so they claimed.”
March also revealed that it was the bias of politicians that ultimately led to his seat in Parliament, saying it was their “dismissing the labor of low-waged workers as low-skilled and low-value that made me tune into local politics.”