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Queen Elizabeth II’s Record on LGBTQ+ Rights: A Deep Dive

Queen Elizabeth II passed away at the age of 96 Thursday, after her health appeared to be declining rapidly. She was transported to Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands, per a statement from Buckingham Palace, where she remained under medical supervision before passing away. 

Members of the Royal Family, including Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, his wife Camilla, Prince William, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and Princess Anne traveled to Balmoral before she passed.

Elizabeth was the longest-reigning monarch in British history, having held the throne for 70 years, with the anniversary marked by a Platinum Jubilee in February. Over the seven decades she reigned, she oversaw a breadth of political and cultural progress for LGBTQ+ Britons that few other rulers can claim to match, from the legalisation of homosexuality to same-sex marriage, the passage of anti-discrimination laws and more.

As is customary for the monarchy, Queen Elizabeth II was committed to “political neutrality,” and avoided much public comment on LGBTQ+ rights over her career (a fact bemoaned by many commentators). But she did give royal assent to many historic pieces of LGBTQ+ legislation, wherein the reigning monarch approves legislative changes, and she has been largely supportive of LGBTQ+ rights when she has spoken out. 

Below, read more about how Queen Elizabeth II advanced (and fell short on) LGBTQ+ equality over her reign.

Banning conversion therapy

Last May, the Queen announced that banning so-called conversion therapy would be a priority for the UK government. The announcement was celebrated by some LGBTQ+ advocates, as such a ban had been discussed since former Prime Minister Theresa May announced plans to outlaw the practice in 2018. 

However, as it stands, the current conversion therapy ban does not include protections for trans people, a provision that LGBTQ+ Brits have protested for extensively.

Tacitly endorsing LGBTQ+ rights

In 2013, Elizabeth backed a new charter for the UK’s Commonwealth of Nations, an association of countries that are mostly former British colonies. “We are implacably opposed to all form of discrimination,” the charter stated, “whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.” 

Many received the latter as a tacit endorsement of LGBTQ+ rights. However, others pointed out that the charter did not explicitly state a commitment to LGBTQ+ equality, nor even the words “gay” or “lesbian,” as the Advocate reported at the time.

Additionally, the British empire is responsible for exporting laws that criminalise homosexuality to its dozens of colonies, many of which still remain in effect to this day. In 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May encouraged Commonwealth countries to repeal those laws while expressing regret that they were ever implemented. The Queen, however, remained silent.

Explicitly endorsing LGBTQ+ rights

During the Queen’s Speech in 2017, Elizabeth stated, “My government will make further progress to tackle the gender pay gap and discrimination against people on the basis of their race, faith, gender, disability, or sexual orientation.” 

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