Ian Ollis (right) arrives at Parliament with Adriaan Roets (Pic: Facebook)
Openly gay MP Ian Ollis has responded to the social media buzz sparked by him holding his boyfriend’s hand at the State of the Nation Address (SONA)
Ollis was photographed arriving outside Parliament last Thursday hand in hand with partner Adriaan Roets. The proud display of same-sex affection at a high profile official state function has been praised by the LGBT community.
On Tuesday, Ollis, a DA MP, said that he was surprised by the fuss. “I didn’t realise that holding hands was such a ‘thing’,” he told Mambaonline.
He commented that the picture was taken as he was walking past the red carpet to get into Parliament to seat Roets (the DA did not walk on the red carpet or take part in any festivities in response to the deteriorating situation in Parliament). Ollis then joined his DA colleagues outside to walk back into the House as a group.
Ollis confirmed he’d previously taken male partners to the opening of Parliament, but without public displays of affection (“I wasn’t dating them,” he explained).
So while Ollis bringing a same-sex partner to SONA is not necessarily ground-breaking, holding Roets’ hand in full view of the public and the media could well be.
“I’m used to holding hands with Adriaan, so it was nothing unusual from our point of view,” said Ollis. “I have been out of the closet for 15 years, so it seemed quite normal,” he added.
Ollis, who is now the Shadow Minister for Labour, first came out as a public official in an interview with Mambaonline.com in 2009, when he was a DA city councillor in Johannesburg.