A Word In Edgewise: Kind Hearts, Queens, and Presidents


By signing a new charter for the fifty-four member Commonwealth of Nations, Queen Elizabeth II has given Royal support to equal rights for all–just shy of naming GLBT subjects.

“‘We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination,” the new charter declares, “whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.” “Other grounds,” most agree, tacitly refers to sexuality, mention of which was omitted to appease the forty-one countries maintaining stringent punishments, including death, for homosexuality.

A Daily Mail source crowed, “The impact of this statement on gay and women’s rights should not be underestimated. Nothing this progressive has ever been approved by the United Nations.”

British GLBT activist Peter Tatchell had reservations. “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 GLBT community–or gay members of her own royal family… 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.”

Our own Bill Clinton made news recently by belatedly repudiating the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) he signed in 1996, and urging the US Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional when it considers Windsor v. U.S.

Attempting to explain his earlier actions, Clinton allowed that 1996 “was a very different time,” and that he signed to “defuse a movement to enact a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which would have ended the debate for a generation or more.” “Reading those words today,” he conceded, “I know now that, even worse than providing an excuse for discrimination, the law is itself discriminatory. It should be overturned.”

Elizabeth Birch, Executive Director of HRC in 1996, responded by asking, “So why don’t I feel grateful?” She offered several cogent reasons, foremost of which was that DOMA was unconstitutional then. “If it was wrong, it is wrong for all time.”

The lesson? There is no “too little, too late.” The road to “Equality” is not an achievable destination, but a Zeno’s paradox; you will never get altogether there, but must continue the struggle to come as close as possible. Patient pragmatism trumps improbable, unwarranted optimism.

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