Queen Elizabeth II is expected to sign a new charter for the Commonwealth, a document which many have interpreted as a nod to gay rights.
On Monday, Queen Elizabeth will sign the Commonwealth Charter which lays out the core values of the 54 member states, NPR notes. One particular line in this document is making headlines around the world because people have interpreted it as the first time Queen Elizabeth will openly support gay rights in her 61-year reign.
Via the Daily Mail:
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. Sources close to the Royal Household said she is aware of the implications of the charter’s implicit support of gay rights and commitment to gender equality.
"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."
However, others are questioning if Queen Elizabeth is really championing gay rights or if this is a stretch.
British LGBT activist Peter Tatchell told the Independent that if the Queen choose to back equality now, it will stand in contrast to her previous inaction. “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," he said. “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?”
Helen Lewis of the NewStatesman notes that Queen Elizabeth likely didn't write this charter or have a say in its wording. The hook that the supposed gay rights declaration hinges on -- "other grounds" -- is wholly vague. And the New Civil Rights Movement's David Badash calls the the praise is premature.
Gay rights have been moving along in the U.K.
Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken on behalf of equality and has backed the bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Britain, which could take effect in 2015. Still, over 80 percent of Commonwealth countries enact anti-gay legislation, according to the Independent. Former British colonies, like Uganda, Singapore, Jamaica and Malaysia, criminalize homosexuality.
The Queen is set to sign the charter in Monday during a live televised ceremony from Marlborough House on London's Pall Mall.