The death of out Irish boy band member Stephen Gately is being regarded as a national tragedy in Britain and Ireland, The New York Times reports. Gately, 33 and a member of the genre-defining supergroup Boyzone, died over the weekend on the Spanish island of Mallorca. Although reports state that the singer failed to wake up after a night of possibly heavy drinking, his family has declared that neither drugs, foul play, nor suicide are suspected and that the death is "just a tragic accident." Gately was on vacation with his long-term partner, Andrew Cowles; they were joined in a civil union in 2006 and originally introduced by Elton John.
Gately was forced out of the closet by the tabloid paper The Sun in 1999, at the height of his swoon-inducing career. The Guardian remembers that at the time, having an openly gay member of your female-marketed boy band was taboo but that Gately's unwitting outing -- and pursuant success -- paved the way for a more relaxed attitude in the industry. "Gately's career continued undefined by his sexuality -- he was a pop star who happened to be gay, rather than a gay pop star -- a fact that presumably made the decision to come out easier for Will Young, or Westlife's Mark Feehily, or N'Sync's Lance Bass."
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