A British newspaper on Sunday reported Queen Elizabeth II will support a pledge that calls for an end of all forms of discrimination.
Elizabeth on Monday, which is Commonwealth Day in the 54 countries that comprise the British Commonwealth, will sign a charter that includes a statement that declares opposition “to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, creed, political belief or other grounds.” The charter does not specifically refer to gay men and lesbians, but the Daily Mail cites sources within Buckingham Palace who said “other grounds” implies LGBT rights.
“This is an important development,” Andy Wasley of the British LGBT advocacy group Stonewall told the Washington Blade.
The queen will sign the charter less than six weeks after the British House of Commons overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow same-sex marriage in England and Wales. Scottish lawmakers in the coming weeks are expected to debate the issue.
Anti-sodomy laws remain on the books in a number of British Commonwealth countries. These include Jamaica and Uganda, where lawmakers are poised to debate a bill that would impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.
India’s Delhi High Court in 2009 decriminalized same-sex sexual activity among consenting adults.
A bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in New Zealand is scheduled to have its second reading in the country’s Parliament on March 13. Gays and lesbians can also tie the knot in Canada and South Africa.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has previously suggested the allocation of international aid should hinge upon a country’s record on LGBT issues.
“The fact that the queen as head of the Commonwealth is publicly endorsing a statement that opposes discrimination on any grounds sends a strong signal to the many Commonwealth countries where homosexuality remains illegal,” Wasley said. “We’re proud that having achieved equality here in Britain we’re now able to challenge anti-gay discrimination around the world with the Commonwealth’s backing.”