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CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke says he’s gay and speaks out against homophobia in radio interview

CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke, shown in this file photo, admitted he’s gay in a radio interview on Thursday and says homophobia has no place in politics or society.
CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke, shown in this file photo, admitted he’s gay in a radio interview on Thursday and says homophobia has no place in politics or society. - David Jala

‘Enough is enough’

SYDNEY, N.S. — Cecil Clarke’s closely guarded private life became part of his public life after the CBRM mayor opened up about some deeply personal issues.

The 49-year-old Clarke, who is expected to announce his candidacy for the leadership of the Nova Scotia PC Party on Saturday, opted for the medium of radio to declare he will not tolerate people who try to shame him with hurtful comments and actions about his lifestyle.

And, in a Thursday afternoon interview on CBC Radio, he alluded to an undisclosed incident that happened this week that prompted him to speak out publicly.

“I am not going to go forward and announce my intentions about the Progressive Conservative Party leadership race having people think that they are going to shame me or hold something over me or make it negative that in this day and age that being gay is somehow a bad thing,” he said.

“It took a long time down the journey of life to get around to that, but I am in a committed relationship, I love the person I am with, that man is very special to me and I am not prepared to go on my future journey alone and I am not going to do it ashamed or afraid or not proud of who I am as a person and I hope, I hope, people will not allow that to cloud who I am as a politician.”

Although he did not reveal what transpired, Clarke said the incident that occurred earlier this week was one of the lowest moments of his life and left him reeling.

“When you get to the point that you actually feel people’s hate, I said enough is enough, and I am not going to try to pretend — growing up has been very tough and I have been very guarded, I’m a public person with a very private life,” he said.

“When I was four and then seven, I was sexually assaulted as a child and I thought I had recovered very well from that, I had the love of a family that was there for me in a community that supported me — but this week all that hurt and pain came barrelling back, I said ‘you don’t own me and I owe it to myself to be true going forward because I am not going have people trying to shame me.’”

Clarke said he’s finally fed up with the homophobia he has endured through his life, adding that he spent the better part of two days cloistered away with supportive family members.

“When they (people) lose every other argument, they attack your personal character and I’ve always been strong enough to push through that, but I am in a very serious relationship and I am not going to sacrifice that relationship and I am not going to be ashamed of that relationship,” he said.

“I am not going to go forward and make an announcement and think that I have to look over my shoulder because maybe someone else is going to smear me with something or think that they are going to make me afraid or make me weak when everything about my life is about building a better person and being stronger.”

Clarke, who held a number of cabinet portfolios during a 10-year stint as an MLA in the provincial legislature, went on to say he would no longer act as a target for homophobic behaviour.

“I have committed my life to public service and I am very proud of that public service, I am not afraid of tough issues or taking a stand, as people well know, and I don’t mind criticism and constructive criticism about the work I do because that is part of the parliamentary process, but who I am and how I go about my personal life is no longer up for a punching bag for me politically,” said the two-term CBRM mayor, who was first elected to city hall in 2012.

Clarke noted that while society is generally more tolerant today than in yesteryear, homophobia still exists today and is often expressed in whispered rumours and innuendos.

“If I don’t speak out now, if I can’t go into a room and know that the person I want to spend my life with cannot be there freely as well, then I actually turned around and said shame on me, it’s time to say no to this type of abuse,” he said.

Clarke is scheduled to make an announcement on his political future on Saturday between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the North Sydney Firemen’s Club.

Two candidates, East Pictou MLA Tim Houston and King’s North MLA John Lohr, have already announced their intent to seek the PC party leadership. Former leader Jamie Baillie resigned last week amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour. No date has yet been set for a leadership vote.

Clarke, who was re-elected mayor in 2016, has already stated he has no intention of seeking a third term in the 2020 municipal election.

david.jala@cbpost.com

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