Queen Elizabeth II
While the Queen has been applauded for signing an “historic” Commonwealth charter supposedly opposing discrimination against gays, British LGBT rights activist Peter Tatchell has questioned her commitment to equality.
The British media has hyped Queen Elizabeth II’s Commonwealth Day message in which she will sign the charter that includes a pledge to end discrimination in Commonwealth countries on the basis of various grounds, such as gender and race.
According to the Daily Mail, “the Commonwealth Charter is the first time the Queen has signalled her support for gay rights in her 61-year reign”.
The pledge, however, actually includes no specific mention of sexual orientation or LGBT people, presumably including them in the broad category of “other grounds”.
The clause reads: “We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.”
“In truth, the Commonwealth Charter does not include any specific rejection of discrimination based on sexual orientation. This was vetoed by the homophobic majority of member states,” said Tatchell.
“However, many Commonwealth Secretariat officials interpret the clause opposing discrimination on ‘other grounds’ as including opposition to anti-gay discrimination. They inserted the catch-all phrase to circumvent the objections of anti-gay nations. To secure that insertion was a long, tough battle,” he added.
Tatchell also pointed out that despite assertions of the Queen’s actions being groundbreaking she does not actually mention gays or lesbian in her speech; instead stating “we place special emphasis on including everyone…”
“Astonishingly, since she became Queen in 1952, the words ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ have never publicly passed her lips,” he commented.
“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.
“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,” said Tatchell.
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 considering legislation that would introduce the death penalty for repeat gay offenders.