THE QUEEN, trumpeted the Daily Mail at the weekend, was set to "back an historic pledge to promote gay rights and ‘gender equality’ in one of the most controversial acts of her reign" by signing a new Commonwealth Charter, which rejects all forms of discrimination.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell uttered a whoop of delight, draped himself in a Union Jack, and sang "Land of Hope and Glory" outside Buckingham Palace for six hours until the Noise Police moved in.
Actually, he didn't. Instead, via the Peter Tatchell Foundation, he issued a statement expressing scepticism:
The Queen has been seen by some people as implicitly endorsing gay human rights. They argue that although the charter does not include an explicit commitment to gay equality, the clause rejecting discrimination based on “other grounds” implicitly includes a rejection of homophobic discrimination. Maybe.
It is, however, a bit of a stretch for the Daily Mail and Stonewall to suggest that the Queen has come out as a champion of gay rights and expressed her support for gay equality.
She’s made no such explicit commitment and not used any such words.
Indeed, in her 61 years on the throne, the Queen has never publicly uttered the words 'lesbian' or 'gay'. She is a patron of hundreds of charities but none of them are gay ones. Not once has she visited or supported a gay charity.
Tatchell also pointed out that:
Not surprisingly, 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.
More than 40 of the 54 Commonwealth countries still criminalise 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 gay offenders. The Nigerian parliament has before it a similarly draconian anti-gay bill that will outlaw same-sex marriage, and LGBT organisations and advocacy.
This makes the Queen’s charter signing even less of a big deal. It is certainly not the breakthrough for LGBT rights that some people are claiming.
While I doubt that Elizabeth II is a raging homophobe, she certainly doesn’t appear to be gay-friendly. Not once during her reign has she publicly acknowledged the existence of the LGBT community.
While she has spoken approvingly of the UK’s many races and faiths, for six decades she has ignored LGBT Britons. If she treated black and Asian Britons in the same way, she’d be denounced as a racist. Why the double standards?
Regardless of whether these omissions are a reflection of the Queen’s personal views or the result of advice from her courtiers, as monarch she bears ultimate responsibility. Her silence sends a signal of exclusion and disrespect.
Astonishingly, since she became Queen in 1952, the words ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ have never publicly passed her lips. 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.
To get the monarch’s side of the story, I contacted the Queen’s press office. I asked them: Has the Queen ever uttered in public the words gay or lesbian? Did she use these words in any of her Queen's Speeches when announcing the government's gay equality laws? Has she ever acknowledged the existence of LGBT people in any public statement? Has the Queen ever visited a gay charity or welfare agency? Is she the patron of any gay charitable organisation?
The Queen’s press office did not respond to my requests. I rest my case. The monarchy is homophobic - if not by conscious intent, then certainly by default.
As head of state, the Queen is supposed to represent and embrace all British people, not just some. How much longer will the LGBT communities have to wait for royal recognition and acceptance?