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When "partnership" can have different meanings


Barely two weeks in and Britain's new coalition government suffered it's first major scandal yesterday when the new Treasury Chief Secretary, David Laws--a Liberal Democrat--admitted claiming PS40,000 in expenses to pay rent on a room in the home of his long-term partner, James, claiming that he didn't consider their relationship a proper partnership. What was interesting about the UK media reaction was how the focus has largely fallen on Laws's financial impropriety -- not the fact that he was, essentially, in the closet. Try to imagine the reaction of the American press, particularly the Fox News pundits, and you begin to appreciate the growing divergence between American social attitudes and those in Britain, where gay politicians of ALL political stripes are increasingly achieving senior levels of power. Last month David Cameron, now the prime minister, even sent gay parliamentarian Nick Herbert (the new police minister) to a gay rights march in Warsaw to help persuade the government there to abandon its homophobic views. Whether Laws survives will depend on how he spins his misuse of public money, but if he's forced to resign it probably won't be because he's gay, but because he misused expenses--a hugely touchy subject in Britain that has already taken dozens of heads.

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