Queen Elizabeth II is expected to sign a new charter for the Commonwealth tomorrow that many in the U.K. are calling the first expression of LGBT support in the monarch’s 61-year reign.
Dubbed a “21st Century Commonwealth Magna Carta,” the document declares: “We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.”
Sources contend that the reference to “other grounds” is a nod to gays and lesbians. The Daily Mail reports that the words “gay” and “lesbian” were avoided in deference to Commonwealth countries that have laws imposing harsh sentences for same-sex relations.
People close to the Royal Household told the Daily Mail that the queen is aware of the charter’s implicit support of gay rights and commitment to gender equality. Some are interpreting the charter as granting rights to the British throne to female descendents of the royal family, particularly those of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
“The impact of this statement on gay and women’s rights should not be underestimated,” a diplomatic source told the Daily Mail. “Nothing this progressive has ever been approved by the United Nations. And it is most unusual for the Queen to request to sign documents in public, never mind call the cameras in.”
But others, including veteran British gay rights activist Peter Thatchell, are cynical.
“While I doubt that Elizabeth II is a raging homophobe, she certainly doesn’t appear to be gay-friendly,” Thatchell told The Independent. “Not once during her reign has she publically acknowledged the existence of the LGBT community. … If she treated black and Asian Britons in the same way, she’d be denounced as a racist. Why the double standards?”
The New Civil Rights Movement’s David Badash called all the praise for the charter “premature.”
A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace, said: “In this charter, the Queen is endorsing a decision taken by the Commonwealth. The Queen does not take a personal view on these issues. The Queen’s position is apolitical, as it is on all matters of this sort.”