Nick Gibb says he has been ‘overwhelmed’ by the reaction to him coming out publicly as gay a week ago.
In an interview with The Times newspaper on Saturday, June 6, the Conservative MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton announced his engagement to Michael Simmonds, his partner of 29 years.
The pair are set to wed in November this year, and speaking to the Observer, Gazette and Herald series a week after telling his family and friends and then the wider world, the schools minister said he had been ‘moved’ by the outpouring of support.
“It’s been overwhelming actually, I didn’t think people would be so emotional about it,” Mr Gibb, 54, said on Friday, June 12.
“I’ve had people saying, when they read the interview with Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson in The Times that they had tears in their eyes which moved me.
“I’ve had lots of letters of congratulations, both from within my constituency and nationally.
“In the House of Commons colleagues have been hugely warm and supportive in offering their congratulations.”
Mr Gibb, a highly respected MP who has represented Bognor Regis and Littlehampton in parliament for 18 years, told The Times he had kept his 29-year relationship with Mr Simmons, the chief executive of Populus, from his family and friends until now.
He said his 79-year-old mother had initially been shocked but that ‘that’s an age thing’ and had quickly been extremely supportive, along with the rest of his family.
Speaking to The Observer, Herald and Gazette series in his first interview since, he revealed the change in legislation to allow same sex marriages, which his party introduced only last year, prompted their decision to become engaged.
Mr Gibb said: “The legislation didn’t come in until last year, and as I said in the interview, we weren’t really interested in a civil partnership.
“We support the change of the law because we always felt that we were only really interested in having a relationship that was the same as everyone else’s.”
The pair met in the mid-1980s, at a think tank dinner, but didn’t tell others they were a couple.
He told The Times: “We met in a different era so you are in a way locked into that and we were comfortable with it.
“We have a wonderful life together but we are also very private people.”
And speaking at a visit to a newly opened skate park in Bersted called BASE a week later, Mr Gibb said allowing same sex marriages would be a ‘lasting legacy’ for Prime Minister David Cameron.
“Attitudes have changes hugely in the last 20 years and they are down principally to two people,” he said.
“They are down to Tony Blair (former Labour Prime Minister), and to David Cameron, and I’m very proud of the fact that it was David Cameron and the Conservatives who introduced same sex marriages.
“It will be a lasting legacy for David Cameron. For all he’s done to improve our economy and reform our public services, he will also be remembered for that.”
Last month Mr Gibb was re-elected as MP by a landslide majority which will see him see in 20 years representing Bognor Regis and Littlehampton in parliament.
He remains a leading figure within the Tory government, continuing in his role as a Minister of State for Schools.
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