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New Zealand minister resigns after police contact

May 1, 2014

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A New Zealand government minister who gained brief international fame last year for a lively speech in support of gay marriage on Thursday resigned his portfolios after inappropriately contacting police about their investigation into an associate.

Maurice Williamson resigned as minister in charge of building and construction, customs, land information and statistics. He remains a member of parliament.

Williamson called police in January about their investigation into businessman Liu Donghua, who had been arrested on domestic violence charges. Liu later pleaded guilty to assault.

Inspector Gary Davey recalled his phone conversation with Williamson in an email released Thursday by police.

“He started by saying that in no way was he looking to interfere with the process, he just wanted to make sure somebody had reviewed the matter to ensure we were on solid ground as Mr. Liu is investing a lot of money in New Zealand.”

Prime Minister John Key on Thursday called Williamson’s actions a “significant error of judgment.”

“There’s no gray in this,” Key told reporters. “In the end, there’s a line. And the line says that ministers do not involve themselves in police prosecutions.”

In a speech last year that went viral on the Internet, Williamson mocked religious opponents by saying he’d seen a sign: a “big gay rainbow” over his electorate. Parliament soon after voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.

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