Cameron puts homophobia at the heart of the Constitution
Bowing to pressure from the religious and political (principally from Cardinal Keith O’Brien who refers to this as ‘state-sponsored sectarian discrimination’; and Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond who demands ‘equality of faith and gender’), the Prime Minister announced last October that he would introduce an amendment to the Act of Settlement – a ‘Royal Equality Bill’ which would end male primogeniture in the Royal succession, and simultaneously lift the ban on the Monarch being married to a Roman Catholic. As His Grace has previously pointed out, such a change will require a raft of historic legislation to be amended, including the Bill of Rights (1689), the Royal Marriages Act (1772), the Coronation Oaths Act (1688), the Crown in Parliament Act (1689), the Accession Declaration Act (1910) and the rather more sensitive Act of Union (1707).
But if it be right, just and fair to end this ‘blatant discrimination towards Catholics, which is completely unacceptable in a modern society’, a fortiori must it be right to end it in respect of homosexuals and lesbians.
It has just been announced that the male partners of peers and knights who take part in gay marriages are to be given courtesy titles ‘to put them on a par with wives of titled men’. Ergo, the same-sex spouse of Lord so-and-so might be called Sir such-and-such or the Honourable such-and-such. This is a logical consequence of same-sex marriage for the titled: they are entitled to the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts, otherwise the partners of homosexual peers and knights would suffer a manifest discrimination. It is yet to be decided how this will apply to lesbian peers and dames, for the male partners of baronesses and dames are already discriminated against by not being granted courtesy titles. This could be thorny.
But perhaps the most interesting constitutional dimension of the Same-sex Marriage Bill (or whatever it is to be called) is how this will apply (or not) to the Monarch. In proposing that Roman Catholics should continue to be debarred from being head of state, but that anyone who marries a Catholic should not be debarred, David Cameron has perpetuated a manifest religious discrimination while seeming to abolish it. He has created an institution of state in which it would be permissible to rear children as Roman Catholics as long as the heir does not seek to take the throne as a Roman Catholic.
This rectifies nothing. If it be offensive to Roman Catholics that the Monarch may neither be Roman Catholic nor married to one, how does the repeal of half of the prohibition resolve the injustice? If it be bigotry to bar the Monarch from marrying a Roman Catholic, it must a fortiori be bigotry to bar them from the throne.
The Bishops have already made it clear that they will oppose this Bill in the Lords, because they know perfectly well that the reform will lead to disestablishment and the end of the Crown in Parliament under God. But that aside, why not have same-sex couples upon the throne?
Is it not blatant homophobia that, should the Monarch be homosexual, that their partner may not be crowned at their side and granted a royal title to reign with them? Is it not blatantly homophobic that they not marry under the aegis of the Church of England, as the Constitution requires, and that the Church will not officiate over their same-sex union? Is it not unacceptably discriminatory in the 21st century that, should the firstborn of Prince William choose to enter into a civil partnership with his best friend from Eton, his lawful partner shall not also be king?
This is surely a logical corollary of removing all ‘offensive discrimination’ from the institution of Monarchy. If one is legislating to end sexism and Romophobia, why not simultaneously end homophobia? This will surely be the next step (as soon as Stonewall and/or Peter Tatchell latch onto it), for (by all statistical accounts) there are just about as many homosexuals and lesbians in the UK as there are Roman Catholics, all waiting for the right time to get offended over this 'disgusting' and 'insulting' discrimination. It would be invidious for a Conservative prime minister to bring to an end an unjust discrimination against one group, only to sustain an unjust discrimination against another. Come on, Mr Cameron. Why can’t we have two queens upon the throne?