Mark Oaten is not the Only Gay Lib Dem MP
The most pro-gay party is also the most closeted.
Media "rent boy" epithet criticised as homophobic.
London - 22 January 2006
"The Liberal Democrats often boast about their progressive gay rights policies but until recently they were the only major party with no openly gay MPs," said Peter Tatchell of the gay human rights group OutRage!.
He was commenting on media revelations about the gay affair of Liberal Democrat MP Mark Oaten with a 23 year old male escort.
"I feel sorry for Mark's wife, Belinda. Cheating on a partner is disrespectful and dishonourable. But there is no evidence that Mark's gay affair had an adverse effect on his parliamentary duties. I see no reason for his constituents or party to feel aggrieved. His behaviour is a private matter and not an issue for resignation," added Mr Tatchell.
"Some of the media coverage has been less than impartial and objective. The media's use of the epithet 'rent boy' has a whiff of homophobia. It is a dated, insulting term from the anti-gay past. A 23 year old man is not a boy. Such language infantilises gay men and risks conflating homosexuality with paedophilia.
"Apart from the Greens, the Lib Dems are the most pro-gay party. But ironically, of the major parties, they are also the most closeted. They have only one out gay MP - Stephen Williams (Bristol West) - who is a little known backbencher.
"If the Lib Dems are so gay-friendly, why has only one of their MPs freely declared his sexuality? In September last year, Mr Wiliams criticised his party for being reluctant to be open about his sexuality. His coming out was so low key that hardly anyone noticed.
"Mark Oaten is not the only Liberal Democrat MP who has had sex with men. We are disappointed that so few Lib Dem MPs have chosen to come out.
"OutRage! will not be outing any Liberal Democrat MPs because none of them are hypocritical or homophobic. However, we remain mystified by their reticence to be candid about their sexual orientation.
"If the nation's political leaders feel they need to lead double lives to hide their sexuality, then parliament is clearly not doing enough to combat the social homophobia that keeps so many gay men and lesbians in the closet.
"It is time that more MPs were frank about their sexual orientation and that parties fielded more openly gay candidates to show their inclusivity and their sincere commitment to gay human rights," said Mr Tatchell.
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