Growing up in Peabody, I know how good Tom McGee was to his native Lynn and the North Shore in general. But I was a bit taken aback by the obituary published in the Jan. 1 Globe that made him appear saintly (“Thomas McGee, 88, House speaker for longest period in state history”). For those of us who remember the lengthy battle to have sexual orientation nondiscrimination legislation passed in Massachusetts, we can’t forget how McGee nastily opposed any effort to legislate equal rights for the Commonwealth’s gay and lesbian citizens.
I and others who remember his loud, scurrilous, mocking, and homophobic rants against these measures (and against those who supported them) in the waning months of his career as speaker of the House would wonder whether the obituary was about the same person.
Although I generally subscribe to the idea that one should not speak ill of the dead, there is an exception in my book for public figures such as McGee. I believe we all benefit by being reminded of the full person, and of how society and what is thought of as acceptable can change over time — in this case, for the better.