"New year, new start!" is how a blog post published Wednesday by David Mundell, a senior British politician, begins. And as Mundell goes on to explain, it really is a new start. "I have already set out my political priorities for the year and now I am setting out my personal one," he writes. "Having taken one of the most important decisions of my life and resolved to come out publicly as gay in 2016, I just want to get on with it, and now, just like that, I have said it."
Mundell's sudden announcement has made waves in Britain. The 53-year-old Conservative is a member of Prime Minister David Cameron's cabinet and the most senior politician in charge of Scottish affairs. He is a member of a party that has had a troubled relationship at times with Britain's homosexual community. Politicians from all backgrounds have come forward to commend him for his action.
Perhaps what's most remarkable about Mundell's announcement, however, is how unremarkable it may be. Of the 650 members of Britain's House of Commons, 34 are openly LGBT — about 5.2 percent of the total. According to research by the LGBT Representation and Rights Research Initiative at the University of North Carolina, it may be the most LGBT legislature in the world.
It's also impressive when you consider the relative size of these legislatures, though the smaller Dutch legislature has the highest percentage of openly LGBT members. Notably, of the 59 members of Parliament representing Scotland, eight are openly LGBT —more than 13 percent.
"David Mundell’s coming out not only illustrates the continuing importance of visible role-models for LGBT youth around the world who feel marginalized from society but also demonstrates the fact that outside of the US openly gay elected officials are increasingly as likely to be from conservative parties as left wing ones," Andrew Reynolds, director of the LGBTQ Representation and Rights Research Initiative, told WorldViews in an e-mail. "With David Mundell there are 46 LGBT MPs in office globally representing right-wing parties and 47 representing left wing parties."
The number of LGBT members of Parliament has long been relatively high in Britain, with Chris Smith, a Labour lawmaker, becoming the first MP to come out while in office — in 1984. However, although Britain may have a fair share of gay male lawmakers in the House of Commons, it does lag behind in other ways: There are only three openly gay or bisexual women in Parliament, and no openly trans members.
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