Lancashire MP Nigel Evans talks of decision to come out

Conservative MP Nigel Evans has told the BBC his decision to come out was partly inspired by Wales rugby star, Gareth Thomas.

Mr Evans, who represents Ribble Valley, heard a talk by the ex-Wales captain - who disclosed his sexuality in 2009 - and thought: "What's keeping me back?"

The 53-year-old told the BBC's Politics Show his "special responsibility" as a deputy speaker was also a factor.

He added that he had enjoyed superb support since coming out in December.

The sexuality of Mr Evans, who was born in Swansea, was an "open secret in Westminster" before his decision to publicly back the group ParliOut last year, he said.

Diversty talk

"Being a deputy speaker of the House of Commons I think gives you special responsibility," he said.

"And I know there is still harassment and bullying that goes on in schools and a lot of young people really do anguish over their own sexuality and whether they should declare it.

Image caption Gareth Thomas was the first top-flight rugby player to come out

"The average age for coming out is about 17 or 18 and I do apologise to the gay community for me dragging that up somewhat by leaving it so late."

Mr Evans said he had discussed gay rights issues on the world stage and had been coming out to friends and colleagues on a one-to-one basis before he took the public decision.

"I went to a diversity talk by Gareth Thomas the rugby player, who talked about his own sexuality, and I thought 'Hold on, if this iconic rugby player can make it known that he's gay, what's keeping me back?'

He told the programme, which was broadcast on Sunday, that there were suggestions that some politicians had been talking to journalists about his sexuality, but added: "The journalists were telling me rather than the rest of the world.

"It was certainly an open secret in Westminster and the support I've had since making the announcement has been superb, throughout the constituency and indeed all over the place."

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