Peter Tatchell: The Queen’s silence on gay rights excludes and disrespects gay people
By signing the new Commonwealth Charter, with its rejection of all discrimination, the Queen is implicitly endorsing gay human rights.
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.
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. Never once has she visited or supported a gay charity.
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.
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.
Since then, Commonwealth progress on LGBT equality has been slow.
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.
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.
The official British Monarchy website, which documents all the Queen’s public statements and royal visits, includes no mention of the word gay or of any gay good causes. Type the word ‘gay’ into the search facility and you get nothing.
The Queen visits lots of charities and welfare organisations. But never in 61 years has she visited a gay charity or welfare agency. She has, for example, ignored deserving gay charities like the Albert Kennedy Trust and Stonewall Housing, which support homeless LGBT youth. Although she is a patron of many good causes, none of them are gay.
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When there are major tragedies involving the loss of life, the Queen often visits the site and the victims in hospital. This did not happen when neo-Nazi, David Copeland, bombed the Admiral Duncan gay pub in Soho, London, in 1999, killing three people and wounding 70 others. At the time, it was the worst terrorist outrage in mainland Britain for many years. To most people’s surprise, the Queen did not visit the bombed-out pub or the hospitalised victims.
I have 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 community have to wait for royal recognition and acceptance?
Peter Tatchell is director of the London-based human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, and coordinator of the Equal Love campaign.
The views in this article are his own and not those of PinkNews.co.uk