LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday congratulated one of Britain’s oldest LGBT charity and advocacy groups, the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, in what royal watchers say is the first time 87-year-old Monarch has recognized an LGBT advocacy group in her 62 years on the British throne.
The London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, celebrating its 40th anniversary this week, was established on March 4, 1974, as a voluntary organization to provide an information, support and referral services for the LGBT community. It is staffed with more than 150 trained LGBT volunteer phone operators.
“Best wishes and congratulations to all concerned on this most special anniversary,” read the Queen’s message, according to a transcript released by Buckingham Palace.
British Prime Minister David Cameron also congratulated the group, along with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, London’s Mayor Johnson, and the head of the Labour party in Parliament, Ed Miliband.
The London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard estimates it has provided support and information to more than 3 million people since its founding, and that its volunteer staff answers approximately 15,000 calls every year with an additional 100,000 people assisted who seek information online from its online LGBT community resources website.
Observers says this latest gesture is another indication of the Queen’s public softening on issues related to LGBT rights.
In July 2013, she gave her royal approval of legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in England and Wales; the law takes effect on March 29. And in August, she officially pardoned famed British mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing, who was criminally prosecuted in 1952 and convicted of “gross indecency” under Britain’s 1885 law that criminalized homosexual activity.