In the obits for former ontario attorney general Ian Scott, legal achievements got top billing.
After all, he amended the Ontario Human Rights Code to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and introduced pay equity legislation and Ontario's first Freedom Of Information Act. The former labour lawyer didn't forsake his progressive personal convictions when he moved to Queen's Park.
But Scott, the province's top lawyer under the Lib government of David Peterson from 1985 to 1990, was something else, too. He was a gay man in an era when being out was a career-killer, especially in T.O.'s uptight legal community. So the pol who made gay history felt obliged to bob and weave about who he really was.
He "never married,' according to one newspaper profile that appeared at the time he entered politics, even as he was living with a man in a relationship he would not publicly acknowledge until his partner died of AIDS. Scott was especially hostile to gay demands for same-sex spousal rights.
"My private life has always been private,' I remember him declaring at one wild all-candidates meeting back in the 80s at the 519 Community Centre.
Later in life, he defended his refusal to come out. Ontario was not ready for a senior gay cabinet minister, he wrote, "and I saw no reason to make what would have been a futile attempt to change it.'
Maybe Ontario wasn't ready. Or maybe it was Scott who wasn't prepared to take the risk and be the gay attorney general the province might - or might not - have accepted as easily as it has the queer ministers of health and education currently running the two most important portfolios at Queen's Park.
Ironically, just about the entire province knew about Scott's sexuality even as he was sparring with the Toronto Sun over its efforts to out him. There was even one crackpot who walked up and down Yonge Street wearing a placard proclaiming the AG was a fag.
An acquaintance of mine marvelled this past weekend that even his own socially conservative Catholic dad in outer Etobicoke knew that the conscience of the Liberal government was queer but went on admiring him.
I remember interviewing the AG at election time in a greasy spoon near his campaign office on Parliament, and wondering what would happen if instead of the standard political chit-chat I asked him outright who he thought he was fooling. "You've given us so much, I wanted to say, but you could give so much more if only you were willing to be forthright."
But I've always believed coming out is a personal decision, not an obligation. And so we went back to election gossip as I followed Scott up the street to start his door-to-door canvassing.
Despite the pressures of being a queer man in a straight guy's world, Scott claimed to have had a happy and fulfilling life. "I was good at keeping my life in quite separate compartments,' he writes in his memoir. "It was not a great strain, despite what others may think, to isolate these [gay and straight] worlds from one another.'
Perhaps he protested too much. In any event, his worlds finally came together late in his life, after a stroke had cruelly robbed him of his power to do what he so loved: talk.
The medical setback, he explained, also affected the side of the brain that governs restraint, and he raged about his condition. After his stroke, I'd occasionally pass him as he careened down Church Street on his scooter, unshaven but smiling, finally at ease in the community he had so long denied.