William and Kate: Who Cares?
BY Peter Tatchell
April 26 2011 2:50 PM ET
COMMENTARY: Two thirds of the British public are largely indifferent or don’t care at all about the royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, according to opinion polls. One third of municipalities have no applications for officially encouraged royal wedding street parties and nearly two thirds have very few. There is no great public enthusiasm for William and Kate’s nuptials. Most people don’t hate the royals, but neither do they love them. Monarchy is losing its luster. It’s fast becoming just another strand of celebrity culture and soap opera.
William and Kate have gay friends but don’t publicly acknowledge them. Members of the royal family who are gay or bisexual hide in the closet and have sham marriages, despite most of the British public accepting LGBTI people and LGBTI equality. What’s the problem with this backward royal family?
Of course, I wish William and Kate every happiness, as I would wish any couple, gay or straight. But I don’t defer to the royals and I don’t think they are special. Why should we celebrate this privileged couple? When he becomes king, William will inherit the immense personal wealth accumulated by his royal ancestors through slavery, war, pillage, and colonization. If he had a conscience, he would give away the monarch’s personal wealth as reparations to the victims of centuries of regal tyranny.
You guessed it. I won’t be celebrating the royal wedding. I will spend the wedding day — this Friday, April 29 — partying with Republic, the campaign for an elected head of state.
They are holding Not the Royal Wedding Street Party in central London. The venue had to be moved after officials who readily facilitate pro–royal wedding street parties refused to grant it a permit. Then I’m off to one of London’s best-known gay bars, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, for its spectacular party, A Right Royal Affair. The proceeds from this satirical event will go to the Equal Love campaign, which is working for marriage equality, against the ban on same-sex marriage.
So what’s my beef with the monarchy? Never in the Queen Elizabeth II’s 58-year reign has she ever acknowledged the existence of the LGBTI community. She has failed to visit or support LGBTI charities, despite her many charitable causes. Until the LGBTI human rights group OutRage! protested, she barred gay palace employees from bringing their partners to staff events. When the Admiral Duncan gay bar in London was bombed by a far-right terrorist in 1999, killing three people and injuring 70 others, she declined to visit the victims in hospital. The words "gay" and "lesbian" have never publicly passed her lips. For more than half a century she has ignored LGBTI Britons. If she treated black or Asian people in the same way, she’d be denounced as a racist. Why the double standards?
I believe that Britain should start thinking about the post–Elizabeth II era. It’s time there was a serious public debate about the alternative to the monarchy — an elected head of state, chosen by the people and accountable to the people.
This is an issue of democracy and human rights. The monarch is our head of state. The monarchical system is anti-Catholic, sexist, and, by default, racist. Catholics are barred. The monarch is also required to be a member of the established state church, the Church of England. People of other denominations and faiths are prohibited, as are atheists. Since the monarch and head of state is drawn from the all-white Windsor royal family, for the foreseeable future no black or Asian person can be Britain’s head of state. Firstborn daughters of the existing monarch are not allowed to become queen if they have any brothers. Older girls are passed over in favor of younger male children. These discriminations are out of step with the values of modern, liberal Britain.
I would prefer a democratically elected, low-cost, and purely ceremonial president, with no political powers and with any citizen being eligible to stand for the post, regardless of their race, gender, class, faith, or sexuality.
Our head of state ought to be chosen based on merit and public endorsement, not on the grounds of privileged parentage and inheritance. They should be subject to periodic election so they can be replaced if they fail to fulfill their duties as expected.
Monarchy is incompatible with democracy. It’s a relic of feudalism and of a bygone aristocratic, imperial era. The time has come to consign royalism to history.
For more information about Tatchell’s other LGBTI and human rights campaigns, or to make a donation, click here.