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LGBT advocates disagree over Queen’s support of gay rights

Monday, March 11, 2013

LONDON — Debate is raging between LGBT advocates over whether Queen Elizabeth II supports gay rights following a ceremony Monday in which the 86-year-old monarch signed a charter which calls for an end to discrimination across the 54 Commonwealth nations.

On Sunday, The Daily Mail declared that “the Queen would back an historic pledge to promote gay rights and ‘gender equality’ in one of the most controversial acts of her reign.”

Queen Elizabeth II

But observers say the charter is not binding and includes no explicit pledge of LGBT equality.

“We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds,” the document states.

The “other grounds” has been interpreted as meaning sexual orientation and gender identity, a sensitive topic since homosexual acts are illegal in 41 of the Commonwealth’s 54 member states.

Long-time London-based human rights activist Peter Tatchell, who initially praised the accord, telling AFP that, “by signing the new Commonwealth Charter, with its rejection of all discrimination, the Queen is implicitly endorsing gay human rights,” now expresses cynicism.

“While I doubt that Elizabeth II is a raging homophobe, she certainly doesn’t appear to be gay-friendly,” Tatchell said, adding that the Queen has never supported LGBT community in her 61 years on the throne.

“Astonishingly, since she became Queen in 1952, the words ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ have never publicly passed her lips,” said Tatchell. “There is no record of her ever speaking them. Even when she announced government plans for gay law reform in her Queen’s Speeches, she did not use the words lesbian or gay.”

“Apparently, mentioning LGBT people is beneath the dignity of the monarch,” said Tatchell.

In contrast, Ben Summerskill, the Executive Director of the British LGBT rights organization, Stonewall UK, pointed out that it would be foolish not to acknowledge this may be a first step towards equality in some Commonwealth countries.

“We would of course be much happier if the terms would be addressed and discussed openly,” Summerskill said. “But if addressing them obliquely is a first step, we should be happy about that.”

A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace told LGBTQ Nation on Monday that “Her Majesty is apolitical under British law and is signing the document in her capacity as head of the Commonwealth.”

Sources close to the Royal household Sunday told The Daily Mail said she is aware of the implications of the charter’s implicit support of gay rights and commitment to gender equality.

Tatchell disagreed, telling LGBTQ Nation, “The Commonwealth Charter does not include any specific rejection of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This was vetoed by the homophobic majority of member states. They blocked its inclusion.”

“This makes the Queen’s charter signing even less of a big deal,” he said. “It is certainly not the breakthrough for LGBT rights that some people are claiming.”

Tatchell conceded that many officials interpret the charter wording that rejects discrimination on “other grounds” as including a rejection of anti-gay discrimination.

A foreign office source told LGBTQ Nation that even securing this modest, ambiguous insertion into the charter was a tough battle that many member states resisted.

More than 40 of the 54 Commonwealth countries still criminalize homosexuality, mostly under laws imposed by Britain during the colonial era. Six of these countries stipulate life imprisonment.

Uganda is currently considering legislation that would introduce the death penalty for “repeat” offenders of gay sexual acts and the Nigerian parliament has before it a similar anti-gay bill that will outlaw same-sex marriage, LGBT organizations, and activism.

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48 more reader comments:

  1. More importantly, does her heir support it?

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:41pm
  2. Has Queen Elizabeth II ever uttered the word ‘gay’ in public, referring to the LGBTIQ community, ever?

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:43pm
  3. Monarchy is simply wrong – the very institution supports the lie that all humans are not equal!

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:43pm
  4. She doesn’t have to accept LGBTers but given that she signed the charter proves she respects us LGBTers and that’s enough for me. I believe people don’t have to accept my bisexuality but they do have to respect it.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:44pm
  5. Really now? You queens could bitch about anything. This a step, a step in the right direction. Just be thankful it’s a step forward, not backwards. Geez…

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:46pm
  6. Come in its a step in the right direction!

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:47pm
  7. Elizabeth, she respects us as “others.” Not really sure that is respect.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:47pm
  8. You people complain about any support.. This is a very influential figure in the world- I would be happy to know that someone as notable as the Queen being in support of gay rights. Get over yourselves, and be happy.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:48pm
  9. Now if we can only get the new Pope to be influenced by the Queen’s decision to sign the charter and respect LGBTers.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:49pm
  10. The document does NOT call for an end to discrimination of LGBT people. Did anyone read this or other articles. There is NO direct line to LGBT people. Instead, only “others.”

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:49pm
  11. You guys complain too much. As mentioned above, any step in the right direction is better than no step at all!

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:50pm
  12. Her exact words are to end discrimination of ALL kinds. That is support in my books. Why our community can’t be happy for this is beyond me. Just because she didn’t come out and say “I support gay rights.” Geesh!

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:51pm
  13. fuk all wrong wae gay people support it or get to fuk simple they do no harm to anyone at all

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:51pm
  14. The queen’s statement was not personal. And the reason why she was so vague was because of anti-gay African commonwealth nations. Not that I think it’s right.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:51pm
  15. Nathan Hamilton, government in all forms supports the lie that all humans are not equal.

    Monarchy is just a more blatant example of that.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:52pm
  16. She is from a different time and she doesnt have to say the words to accept something.. She signed the charter.. What more do you want?

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:53pm
  17. So, basically, UK Gays don’t know if they actually are included in this.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:57pm
  18. Mr Tatchell sounds like a fool. So the Queen never mentioned the words gay or lesbian, she has implied the LGBT community on many occasions; she never had to label it. Sounds like the gay rights advocate Tatchell just needs something nitty to argue about.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:57pm
  19. Sounds like this thread is proving the title of the article true!

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:58pm
  20. The reason why the declaration the queen signed did not include sexual orientation or gender identity is those 54 “commonwealths” are countries the UK illegally invaded and left behind gay bashing laws. They could not piss off the countries they illegally invaded,

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:58pm
  21. Just because she has never used the words, doesn’t mean she doesn’t support LGBT rights

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:59pm
  22. It was said in news that specific mentions in the charter of ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ were omitted ‘out of deference to Commonwealth nations with draconian anti-gay laws’. To me personally, showing deference to the ‘draconian anti-gay laws’ by omitting the names of the groups you’re allegedly supporting is a serious act of disrespect for those groups. How can Her Majesty support ending discrimination against us with a charter that is discriminatory in its wording?

    Your Majesty, if you truly support us then make a public statement declaring that you do. Tell those Commonwealth nations with their ‘draconian anti-gay laws’ that they are to no longer discriminate against or cause harm to our community, that they can no longer pass or enforce laws against us that deprive us of our right to be who and what we are, and that doing either of these things will result in suspension from the Commonwealth until the offending nation adopts and enforces policies that are in line with modern/knowledgeable times.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:00pm
  23. @ Jeremy – she respects us as PEOPLE which is what humans are.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:00pm
  24. The Monarch of the UK and the Commonwealth nations is also the head of the Anglican Church. She can’t say anything in support of gay rights because the Bishops would not be having it.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:00pm
  25. Other grounds … that refers to sexual orientation. I think these advocates love to complain. She did a good thing for the LGBT community. Keeping in mind that the Queen comes from a very different era … I think it is very big of her to come out and support us. Besides, as a community we are all trying to end all forms of discrimination … not just LGBT discrimination.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:00pm
  26. I’m sorry, other than tabloid fodder, what is the relevance of the opinion of the Queen again?

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:01pm
  27. This is a step in the RIGHT direction! Leave it to a Queen! :)

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:01pm
  28. The Queen turned her back to us during the Aids epidemic. Diana HRH stood for equity in the commonwealth. It is clear to me by the vague wording that the aging monarch doesn’t realize what she’s implying, ot. Of course, she has reigned gor 61 years and perhaps I might respect her but really she has never deigned to utter LGBTQ nor questioning so I still feel colonialized: taxed without representation…and Lady Di is sorely missed. Her sons are beautiful young men. I hope they can work towards decriminalizing and well while I’m eequesting, we may want the northernmost 6 counties back in Eire. They are the wealthiest and well it is the Diamond Jubilee and well 32the states of Erin Go Bragh now then let frrdom reign o’er me, QE

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:02pm
  29. One queen too many.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:06pm
  30. I’m not gay, but I respect and support the LGBTQ Community,and their drive to promote equality. As Elizabeth Purich stated above…they are People too!

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:09pm
  31. So now we’re going to pick and choose what kind of support we’ll accept? We’re going to pick apart words to twist them in whatever way to suit our own disbelief? This is a Queen who has been around a very long time and has seen many great milestones in history, she is not about to miss one because she is scared. I mean really think about that, the Queen, the ‘woman’ who has ruled for over 60 years….is scared. Come on. Take the support and be happy and jubilant with it! Otherwise others will see us acting this way and think ‘gee, if they act that way toward a Queen, I guess our opinion is even less important, fuck them’. That’s just what we need, people thinking we’re ungrateful because it isn’t big enough and it’s not soon enough and it’s not Gay enough. I’m not saying let’s settle by any means. I’m saying have a little respect and appreciation.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:10pm
  32. у нас в России всё наоборот сейчас. полная гомофобия.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:11pm
  33. Wow! So many negative comments. Give her a break. We all make mistakes but can learn from them. I agree with Jorge Juarez – some people just love to complain. She is from a different era and I applaud her for this step.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:15pm
  34. She didn’t go with or listen to the voice of her people on August 31st, 1997 when Diana was killed… and it nearly cost her the monarchy. She is smart, she will go with what the people want much more often now than in the past. But, I bet she is all for it.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:20pm
  35. Well, The Queen does appear to be hedging her bets and unfortunately any gay citizen anti-discrimination legislation must be specific to stand the test of time and the inevitable-and endless, as we will find out-attacks from those that will do us harm. As with Mr. Obama, half way isn’t going to cut it…good intentions are all well and fine, but specific and direct action is what is needed. The issue of gay citizen rights,wherever in the world that they may come up for debate and implementation, is too important and controversial to be handled in a wishy washy manner. It is all or nothing,and we won’t accept nothing, not anymore.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:21pm
  36. @ Helen – right on!! My own mother is from the same era as the Queen and my mother respects my bisexuality and the same sex relationship I’m in (I do not date, have sex with, nor do relationships with men but I am attracted to them, I don’t view men as marriage or relationship material based on past experiences) but she doesn’t understand it. She does believe people should love who they love. The Queen’s decision to sign the charter is a huge step forward for us LGBTers and we should be celebrating every victory we achieve not bitch, whine, and complain.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:22pm
  37. @Anton Kochenov Россия станет лучше, просто сохранить хорошую работу и считаем, что свобода придет. Вот как все движения победили, никогда не сдаваться и верить в мечту.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:24pm
  38. It’s a step in the right direction…

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:29pm
  39. i would have been impressed had the document not ended with a vague comment about other peoples.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:38pm
  40. Unless she as head of the church of england said GOD told me to tell you love the gays as you would love Jesus then she has done zilch.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:42pm
  41. Christ–give an old lady a break! This is a huge step for a monarch in a country that formerly used chemical castration as punishment of gay men.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:43pm
  42. Is not actions and perceptions speaking loader than mere word, unless you are a writer and I have never seen anything she has written so she is doing good as far as I can see!!!

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:52pm
  43. So, the U.K. takes one huge leap forward towards total equality and a bunch of bitter old queens are nattering because she didn’t explicitly say “Gay?”

    Fuck, this is the whole “alphabet soup” bullshit all over again.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 6:04pm
  44. More than 40 of the 54 Commonwealth countries still criminalize homosexuality, mostly under laws imposed by Britain during the colonial era. Six of these countries stipulate life imprisonment. “What the Queen should have done was to make discrimination unlawful period. This is wrong under no circumstances… and force the Commonwealth Nations to change their laws… this is the 21st Century.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 6:26pm
  45. I wonder how things will be taken now that the Vatican in Rome has bought apartments for their priests on the same block in walking distance of the biggest gay sauna in Italy!

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 8:22pm
  46. Why do people love to stand in their own way of progress? Why can’t people just be happy for the support? For Christ’s sake- Bitter old queens is right, Wesley.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 8:28pm
  47. Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 8:32pm
  48. You know, things are far from perfect anywhere in the world, but let’s just take a step back for a minute &be grateful we don’t live in places where a person can be legally beaten &killed on the streets for being LGBT.

    Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 8:40pm