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Wife praised after LBTQ news site mistakenly said her MP husband is gay

4 min read

A Conservative MP’s wife has been praised for her sporting response to an erroneous claim on an LGBTQ+ website that her husband was his constituency’s first openly gay MP.

Benjamin Cohen, CEO of Pink News, thanked Johnny Mercer and his wife Felicity Cornelius-Mercer for “being good sports” about the mistake in a report about MPs clashing in a “tense debate over reforms to the Equality Act” 

When Felicity Mercer’s attention was drawn to the article in Pink News earlier this week, she would have seen a surprising piece of personal news about hubby Johnny Mercer. It stated: “Johnny Mercer, Plymouth’s first gay MP, doubled down on his support for the trans community in his contribution to the Equality Act debate, pointing out that a change could have potentially negative impacts on intersex people and urged Parliament to focus more on healthcare than who uses a toilet.”

Felicity responded to a tweeted inquiry from Julian Perreira, a digital news producer with Forces News and a former Grenadier Guard, who asked, “Just checking, but did @PinkNews just out @JohnnyMercerUK ?”.  

She tweeted: “I’ve had my suspicions for a long time. My family would like to request privacy over this difficult time. It has been a shock but ultimately only wish for his happiness. Thank you.”

Of course, Pink News got its wires crossed and did not intend to out the MP for Plymouth Moor View Mercer as the newest member of the LGBTQIA+ community. They actually meant Labour MP Luke Pollard, the MP for neighbouring Plymouth Sutton and Devonport. The report in Pink News has since been corrected.

Mr Mercer, 41, minister for veterans’ affairs, has been married for nine years and has three children. The couple made light of the mistake.

Mr Mercer himself weighed in on Twitter, responding to his wife’s post by stating: “To be fair, if anyone was likely to push me over the edge…” His wife, referring to Mr Mercer’s service in the British Army in Afghanistan, replied: “More likely all those episodes of Glee you watched with the boys on Op Herrick.”

The article in Pink News focused on MPs arguing over reforms to the Equality Act, and claimed that Mr Mercer had “doubled down” on his support for the trans community during the debate.

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Readers quickly spotted the error and one reader posted on social media: “Hi Pink News – a quick FYI. You state in the piece that Johnny Mercer is ‘Plymouth’s first gay MP’. Would that be the same Johnny Mercer who’s married to a woman and has three kids? C’mon, this is basic stuff.”

Felicity, who works in her husband’s office in the House of Commons, replied with just one word — “Awkward” — accompanied by a blushing emoji.

Replying to another user, she joked: “He told me it was just a one off” — following by a sad-face emoji.

Others on social media appeared to have taken Felicity’s words seriously. One person wrote to Felicity, saying: “What a very dignified tweet. Your husband is one of the Tories I have some time for. You sound like an excellent person. Sorry that things must be very difficult for you presently – good luck.”

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Felicity gently nudged the writer in the correct direction, replying: “Very kind, thank you — but it’s not true, it was a typo in a paper.”

Responding to one of Felicity’s tweets about the mistake, Benjamin Cohen, CEO of Pink News, said: “Thanks for being good sports.”

Felicity – who has won a legion of fans on Twitter – simply replied: “Always”.

The “typo” was doubly embarrassing for Pink News as Mr Mercer was the Plymouth MP. who three years ago. apologised to LGBT veterans who were treated badly before a ban on gay people serving in the military was lifted two decades ago.

Before January 12, 2000, anyone found to be homosexual in the Armed Forces was dishonourably discharged and in some cases had their medals stripped. To mark the 20th anniversary of the lifting of the ban, rainbow flags were raised at key locations across Britain, including at the Royal Navy’s Plymouth base, HMNB Devonport.

Addressing veterans at the Houses of Parliament at the time, Mr Mercer said the ban had been wrong. He said: “It was unacceptable then and it is unacceptable now, and as the minster for defence, people and veterans, I wanted to personally apologise to you today for those experiences.”

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