High Level British Pol Comes Out of the Closet
Once Nigel Evans, a highly placed conservative in the British government, came out to a friend at a party, he saw no reason to stop; now the 53-year-old deputy speaker has announced publicly that he is gay.
"Vicky [Entwhistle], a soap opera star] and I went for a drink after the party and she said to me, ’You’re gay, aren’t you?’ " Evans told the press, according to a Dec. 20 article in British newspaper the Daily Record. "It’s a subject I avoid usually," Evans added, "but Vicky is very natural and I told her I was.
"I thought to myself, ’I am now telling people I am gay--it’s time I did something about it and told everyone,’ " added the Tory politician, whose disclosure coincides with the start of a new group, ParliOut, which is geared toward supporting GLBT politicians. Evans will serve as vice president of the group.
Evans told the press that while he was still semi-closeted--his sexuality was an "open secret," the article noted--a liberal Minister of Parliament had used Evans’ being gay to generate "nastiness." "The MP was saying to anyone who would listen, ’Why is it that Nigel Evans leads a life whereby he is gay to some people and not others?’ " Evans related. "I could not afford it to be used as leverage against me. I couldn’t take the risk." Added Evans, "I don’t want any other MP to face that kind of nastiness again."
The politician went on to say, "I am sure there are other gay MPs who would like to be open about their sexuality but are fearful of the consequences. I hope this new group will help them to do so." Evans also expressed his sorrow at having stood behind an anti-gay law that forbade the presentation of homosexuality, or of gays and their families, in a positive light in schools.
"I was confused about how to protect youngsters at school," Evans said. "The law did the opposite of what was intended. We shouldn’t have been telling young people that being gay was wrong." Evans is a much different political animal now: the article noted that he and an Iranian politician exchanged strong words in Geneva over the issue of a gay man who was executed in Iran.
Prior to Evans’ coming out, other highly placed gay officials in the British government also disclosed their sexuality. In the case of David Laws, who stepped down from his post as chief secretary to the Treasury only a few weeks after the new government took power, the disclosure came as part of his resignation. Laws had violated finance rules by paying money from a government housing stipend to his long-time same-sex partner, lobbyist James Lundie, from whom he rented a room. Laws emphasized that his motive had been to keep his sexual orientation and his relationship quiet, and pointing out that he had not benefited financially.
The rules specify that claimed expenses "must not be used to meet the costs of ... leasing accommodation from a close business associate, or a partner, or a family member," UK newspaper the Times reported last May 30. The rules also specify that "partner" is to be defined as "one of a couple, whether of the same sex or of the opposite sex (the other being a member) who although not married to each other or civil partners are living together and treat each other as spouses."
Laws initially claimed that he had not broken the letter of the rules, saying, "Although we are living together, we did not treat each other as spouses--for example, we do not share bank accounts and indeed have separate social lives." However, in political circles, the two were known as a couple, the Times said. The scandal broke on May 29.
On Aug. 27, prison minister Crispin Blunt, 50, came out as gay and announced that he and his wife had separated. According to an Aug. 30 article in UK newspaper the Daily Mail, Blunt had earlier taken anti-gay stances, including making a statement that being gay is "not equivalent to heterosexuality," adding that, "’It is also clear that there is a much greater strand of homosexuality than of heterosexuality which depends for its gratification on the exploitation of youth."
The article also said that Blunt decided to come out after Laws disclosed the truth about his own sexuality, an admission that did not lead to any official criticism of Laws for being gay.
Indeed, the issue of gays in government seems to be a non-issue in the UK, and Britain’s GLBTs seem to be winning greater acceptance. While campaigning, Tory leader David Cameron--now the British Prime Minister--embraced GLBT voters, cultivating an image of greater inclusivity and to reaching out to conservative youth. Under Cameron’s leadership, the Tory party--which had in the past taken anti-gay stances--reinvented itself as a modern and inclusive entity.
Evans told the media that his decision to come out was also prompted, in part, by another conservative lawmaker, Greg Barker, who left his marriage in 2007 in order to be with another man. Barker had approached Evans about including his name on a listing of gay political figures. At that point, Evans told the media, "I thought, this is just daft. I am not going to live a lie any more," reported British newspaper the Daily Post on Dec. 20.
Another gay pal who spurred Evans’ decision was out rugby star Gareth Thomas, whose emergence from the closet last year generated headlines around the world. After discussing the issue with Thomas, Evans said, he decided, "If people like Gareth, who was married, can come out, it should be no big deal for me."