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‘Queen fights for gay rights’ Really? Not yet strongly

Queen Elizabeth II (Photo by DBKing via Wikimedia Commons)
Queen Elizabeth II (Photo by DBKing via Wikimedia Commons)

Queen Elizabeth II’s signature on a new Commonwealth Charter opposing “all forms of discrimination” will have symbolic value in the 41 of the Commonwealth’s 54 member countries that still cling to colonial-era laws against homosexuality.

But at least in the document, the wording could have been stronger; its rejection of discrimination and imprisonment of LGBT people is implicit, at best.

In an article titled “Queen fights for gay rights,” The Mail reports:

In a live television broadcast, she will sign a new charter designed to stamp out discrimination against homosexual people and promote the ‘empowerment’ of women – a key part of a new drive to boost human rights and living standards across the Commonwealth.

In her first public appearance since she had hospital treatment for a stomach bug, the Queen will sign the new Commonwealth Charter and make a speech explaining her passionate commitment to it.

Insiders say her decision to highlight the event is a ‘watershed’ moment – the first time she has clearly signalled her support for gay rights in her 61-year reign.

The charter, dubbed a ‘21st Century Commonwealth Magna Carta’ declares: ‘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 intended to refer to sexuality – but specific reference to ‘gays and lesbians’ was omitted in deference to Commonwealth countries with draconian anti-gay laws.

The Mail reported that Ben Summerskill, chief executive of LGBT rights group Stonewall, praised the Queen for taking “an historic step forward” on gay rights. He is quoted as saying:

This is the first time that the Queen has publicly acknowledged the importance of the six per cent of her subjects who are gay. Some of the worst persecution of gay people in the world takes place in Commonwealth countries as a result of the British Empire.

But not everyone was so impressed. Blogger Cathy Kristofferson, for example, said in O-Blog-Dee-O-Blog-Da:

All the hoopla is a bit premature.  But if this proves true tomorrow when it actually happens then giving the Queen accolades for including gays as ‘others’ is a bit ridiculous and certainly unworthy.

And then explaining the “specific reference to ‘gays and lesbians’ was omitted in deference to Commonwealth countries with draconian anti-gay laws” only adds insult to injury.

41 of the 54 Commonwealth countries outlaw homosexuality thanks to left over British colonial penal codes and WHAT a great opportunity this could have been to suggest that they should be repealed now!  Much better to have said “Let’s get rid of those death sentences, life imprisonments, floggings, etc. and welcome all of the Commonwealth nations to the 21st Century.”

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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