Headlines this weekend praised The Queen for promoting gay rights in a new Commonwealth Charter, which includes this commitment to civil rights:
We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.
The “other grounds” is meant to refer to sexuality, but was kept ambiguous because some of the commonwealth countries still have strict laws against homosexuality. Her live speech will add that rights must “include everyone,” apparently another nod at gay rights.
Though the public display of her signing and live speech is notable, British LGBT groups are not impressed by the allusion. Prominent activist Peter Tatchell had higher expectations:
TATCHELL: 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. […]
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… 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 Guardian’s Patrick Strudwick similarly notes that “to refrain from specification is to collude with silence, the Grand Pause that keeps lesbians and gay men invisible, suffocating in marriages of inconvenience or trapped in police cells.”
The charter is a worthwhile commitment to civil rights in commonwealth countries and also includes support for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Still, claims that The Queen is suddenly “fighting” for gay rights seems to be quite the overstatement.