If Britain’s Treasury Sec. David Laws Paid Rent the Proper Way, He Would’ve Been Outed

David Laws spent less than three weeks as Britain’s Treasury secretary, resigning after a newspaper reported he was using taxpayer funds to pay rent to his boyfriend of nine years. Does he deserve your sympathy if you find out he was doing it just to stay in the closet?

Like American politics, in Britain just because you have a few out lawmakers here and there doesn’t make Downing Street and its surroundings the most welcoming place of all. Which is what Laws is claiming to be the reason he never revealed he was in a same-sex relationship when submitting paperwork for his housing expenses, the Independent reports.

But the real personal tragedy is that Mr Laws was, at the age of 44, “terrified” of revealing his homosexuality to his family – including his Catholic parents – and friends beyond his closest circle. This was the reason why the deeply private MP had allowed himself to become entangled in a situation which has forced him to resign after just 18 days in office. One friend, defending Mr Laws, said once the rules on paying rent to partners changed in 2006, he would have “effectively been outed” by the parliamentary authorities by declaring the arrangement. So he risked everything to keep the fact that he was gay a secret.

Laws, a Liberal Democrat, had an important role in the coalition government just installed, and led by the Conservative Party’s David Cameron:

Mr Laws was a key player in the negotiations that saw the Lib Dems form the coalition government with the Conservatives, and in the policy document published days later. To Mr Laws, being the “axeman” for the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government was a job he wanted and relished, rather than shied away from.

And it’s all come crumbling down, because Laws was either too scared to come out, risked his entire political career if he did, or both. That’s a terrible shame, and says less about Laws’ character than it does institutional homophobia. It also begs the question: Who here thinks if Laws was an out man he would’ve reached such a high office?