John Bercow may have a job as Speaker for the House of Commons, but that doesn’t mean he always says the right thing.
At a meeting of ParliOut, the Houses of Parliament’s gay staff network, last night (26 February), Bercow was introducing the former England international rugby star.
Ben Cohen, the founder of anti-bullying charity StandUp Foundation, is a straight ally to the gay community and uses his position to fight homophobia.
In his speech as reported by the Evening Standard, Bercow said: ‘I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Ben Cohen before but I’m delighted to remedy that serious deficit.
‘For those of you who aren’t aware his background is a rugby international – capped no fewer than 57 times for his country – and he is openly gay and had dedicated himself to fighting for gay rights.’
As the applause laughed, Cohen interjected by saying ‘Don’t tell my wife!’
‘No he’s not openly gay,’ Bercow awkwardly continued on, adding ‘I am not in favor of outing people against their will and that was an ignorant outing that I apologize to Ben for.
‘I’m not sure how I’m going to be getting back from this faux pas.
Afterwards, he told the Londoner: ‘That was embarrassing – but he took it in good humor.’
Cohen is one of the first straight professional athletes in Britain to focus his philanthropic efforts for the benefit of the gay community.