By Tony Grew - 29th May 2010
The Daily Telegraph's revelation that David Laws claimed expenses for a room in a flat owned by the man he was in a sexual relationship with is the first scandal of the coalition government.
At first glance the charges seem damning - tens of thousands of pounds of tax-payer's money has been paid to Laws' boyfriend - partner? - friend with privileges?
It is hard to tell what he is, and that is part of the reason that this scandal is more complex than it seems.
It is a sad fact that from the second David Laws was appointed chief secretary to the Treasury, some lobby journalists have been trying to work out how to out him.
That is not a criticism of the Telegraph - the paper points out they intended to run the story but not reveal Laws' sexuality, and after asking questions of the chief secretary he publicly revealed the relationship.
There are several key points that occur to me - but let me first declare an interest.
I was editor of PinkNews.co.uk for more than two years - a website dedicated to sensible, informed reporting on gay issues.
I would not like to speculate what your feelings were when you read Laws' contrite statement, but the first thing that occurred to me was that every gay man I know would understand.
Not that we all live in fear of exposure, the torment that the chief secretary has lived in for more than a decade.
No, what made me want to weep was the revelation that despite being in this relationship since 2001, he and his partner had not even told their family and friends.
The shame and the fear, I think you can empathise with.
I can do more than that - I have lived it and felt it. And if you do not believe me, have a chat with some of my ex-girlfriends.
It was 1998 before I felt strong enough, that society had changed enough, for me to stand up and be honest with myself and then with others.
In doing so, I opened a new chapter where my parents and brothers and sisters, my friends and colleagues were for the first time fully aware of my life as lived.
It was and continues to be a liberating experience, for there is nothing better in life that you can be than yourself.
The sad thing for David Laws is that his years of concealment have been so unnecessary.
There are a number of gay men who are MPs but are not out - and they are as a rule charming, relaxed and comfortable, at least in the bars and corridors of Westminster.
We all understand the various reasons why they have not been able to go that extra mile and come out publicly - and they have the haunting reminders of those unlucky MPs outed by the press, to maximum humiliation.
Even today we are endlessly reminded that Greg Barker 'left his wife for an interior designer' whereas in fact the marriage was over before the two men ever met.
It is part of the narrative of outing gay politicians.
But David Laws has been on a whole other level of shame, of fear.
A few years ago I attended the Stonewall Awards - a big, glitzy gay back-slapping occasion at the V&A. One recipient was a very old man, a pioneer of gay equality.
He told us of an incident many decades ago when his car was vandalised outside his house, and he and his partner had to go downstairs and make up a camp bed in the front room before they called the police.
This was because if the officers attending had even an inkling that two men staying in the same house were homosexuals, they faced arrest, trial and public humiliation.
Earlier this week I found myself defending the Tories in general, and Theresa May in particular, over gay issues.
For the Tories' stance on gay issues throughout the first two terms of Labour was vile. It stank.
But then something interesting happened. They realised that society had changed.
That civil partnerships and an equal age of consent had not been the end of the world, but were instead really rather modest and decent measures, about which the majority of British people feel a certain sense of quiet pride.
It is an intense sadness to me that David Laws never felt able to step out into that new sunshine created by Tony Blair and New Labour.
He was never able to learn that the vast majority of his colleagues and friends do not give a damn about who he shares his life with, as long as it made him happy.
Instead one of the richest MPs in parliament found himself in a ridiculous position - claiming rent from the taxpayer to refund his boyfriend, so that no-one would find out he was his boyfriend.
Hence the claims, the ridiculous maintenance of pretence, the camp bed in the living room.
I find it incredible that the career of one of the most talented politicians of his generation hangs in the balance over something this trivial and tragic.
I hope David Laws keeps his job.
I hope we can all try to understand why this most intelligent of men acted in such a ludicrous and desperate way to avoid the elephant in his living room.
And now that he has finally told his family and friends and the world that he has a boyfriend, I hope he can feel that sun on his face and escape his former life of concealment.
He is about to find out about the kindness of people, the positive and nurturing responses of those who love him and who have finally been allowed into his world.
So David, this is not a dark day - it is the start of a life lived outside of the shadows. Welcome.
Tony Grew is parliamentary editor of ePolitix.com.