Monday, March 11, 2013

Disagreement Over Queen's Explicit Intent In Signing Commonwealth Charter

By Brody Levesque | LONDON, UK -- Debate is raging between LGBTQ equality advocates over the question of whether Queen Elizabeth supports gay rights in the Commonwealth. In a ceremony Monday evening at Marlborough House, the 86-year-old monarch signed the Commonwealth Charter which calls for equal rights in the 54 charter nations.
On Sunday, a British newspaper, The Daily Mail, declared that "the Queen would back an historic pledge to promote gay rights and ‘gender equality’ in one of the most controversial acts of her reign."
The problem, according to observers including long time London based human rights activist Peter Tatchell, is that the charter is not binding and includes no explicit pledge of LGBT equality.
The document states:
"We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.”
The 'other grounds' has been interpreted as meaning sexual orientation and gender identity, a sensitive topic since homosexual acts are illegal in 41 of the Commonwealth's 54 member states. 
Tatchell pointed out that the Queen has never supported LGBT community in her 61 years on the throne.
“While I doubt that Elizabeth II is a raging homophobe, she certainly doesn’t appear to be gay-friendly," Tatchell said. 
"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?” 
In contrast, Ben Summerskill, the Executive Director of the British LGBTQ rights organisation, Stonewall UK pointed out that it would be foolish not to acknowledge this may be a first step towards equality in some Commonwealth countries.
"We would of course be much happier if the terms would be addressed and discussed openly," Summerskill said. "But if addressing them obliquely is a first step, we should be happy about that.”
A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace told LGBTQ Nation Monday that "Her Majesty is apolitical under British law and is signing the document in her capacity as head of the Commonwealth."
Sources close to the Royal Household Sunday told The Daily Mail said she is aware of the implications of the charter’s implicit support of gay rights and commitment to gender equality.
Tatchell disagreed telling LGBTQ Nation;
"For the last four years, I’ve been pressing Buckingham Palace over the Queen’s failure to acknowledge the existence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people - and got nowhere" 
He added, "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. 
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." 
Tatchell did concede that:
"Nevertheless, it is true that some Commonwealth Secretariat officials interpret the charter wording that rejects discrimination on ‘other grounds’ as including a rejection of anti-gay discrimination. It is claimed that this catch-all phrase was inserted to circumvent the objections of homophobic Commonwealth countries. Possibly."
A foreign office source told LGBTQ Nation that even securing this modest, ambiguous insertion into the charter was a tough battle that many member states resisted.  
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" offnders of gay sexual acts and the Nigerian parliament has before it a similar anti-gay bill that will outlaw same-sex marriage, LGBT organisations, and activism.
Tatchell also told LGBTQ Nation;
"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. 
He added, "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?"


Trab said...

I don't blame her for not being explicit on this issue. With the British tabloids any enthusiasm towards support would immediately begin a 'witch-hunt' for the member of the Royal family who MUST be homosexual.