Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning constitutional monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of the Commonwealth realms; Supreme Governor of the Church of England; head of the Commonwealth of Nations; mother of Charles, Prince of Wales; grandmother of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry of Wales; former mother-in-law of Diana, Princess of Wales; daughter of King George VI; great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria; and heir to Queen Elizabeth I, King Henry VIII, Mary Queen of Scots and God knows who else, has given her "royal assent" that puts marriage equality into law in England and Wales.
The. Queen. Of. England. Has. Just. Approved. Marriage. Equality.
Once more, ladies and gentlemen: The Queen of England has just approved marriage equality. I'd say this qualifies as one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in a series of very big deals. It was a big deal when the Netherlands became the first country to legalize marriage equality, followed by the big deals of Belgium, Canada, Spain, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, France and New Zealand. It was a big deal when marriage equality first came to the U.S. in Massachusetts, followed by the big deals of Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, D.C., Washington, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Minnesota, Iowa and California. It was a big deal when the president of the United States announced that he had at last "evolved" into supporting marriage equality. It was a big deal when polls indicated that a majority of Americans now supports it. It's a big deal that they're considering it in Nepal.
But this is the Her Majesty the Queen, once Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth, Dame Liz, the heir to the British throne. She's the queen. Let me say that again: She's the freaking queen, and she has just said it's fine with her if her hat designers get married if they want to.
Bucking the establishment in one way or another is nothing new for the royal family. Queen Elizabeth II is the great-great-something-granddaughter of King Henry VIII, he of the Herman's Hermits song, who sat by while his second wife, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded because of what many historians believe were trumped-up charges by Thomas Cromwell, his secretary of state. Many believe Henry had her done in because she didn't give him a son, or just because he had the hots for Jane Seymour and wanted Anne out of the way. Because the Roman Catholic Church would not grant Henry a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, he broke with the Catholics and established what eventually became the Church of England, history's most famous example of a king giving the royal middle finger to the pope.
However, Henry apparently believed that he and he alone was entitled to sexual freedom, for he presided over the Buggery Act of 1533, making homosexuality punishable by hanging.
Queen Elizabeth II's great-great-something-aunt and King Henry VIII's daughter, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I, aka Elizabeth R, patron of William Shakespeare, notoriously refused to marry and allegedly died a virgin, although historical rumors indicate the presence of an Elizabethan Gawker or TMZ providing gossip about Elizabeth's alleged romantic liaisons. Elizabeth kept her father's anti-sodomy law in place. Who knows what she did in private.
Queen Elizabeth II's great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, presided over one of the most puritanical and conservative reigns in England's history, as the prudish Victoria frowned on anything outside traditional morality. In this heated and accusatory atmosphere the genius writer Oscar Wilde was imprisoned and destroyed for being gay, found guilty of "gross indecency."
Over the years, laws against homosexuality were gradually relaxed in the UK. The British, while notoriously prudish, secretly know they'd be nowhere without their celebrated "poofters." Noël Coward, Laurence Olivier and Freddie Mercury remained closeted, but everyone knew. Elton John and David Bowie became two of the first famous declared bisexuals. Famous out-of-the-closet Britons like Ian McKellen, Rupert Everett, Stephen Fry, Graham Norton and George Michael reassured fellow Brits that the gays were just very entertaining, talented people. In 2005 "civil partnerships," relationship that are marriage without calling them "marriage," were legally recognized, making it possible for Elton John and David Furnish to keep house in several very comfy homes.
The point is that the UK has gone from a place where the reigning monarchs made homosexuality punishable by death or imprisonment to one where the reining monarch has just made it an equal right. And the Queen of England has subtly said to the anti-gay religious fanatics of the world, "We are not amused."
Some big deals take 500 years, but they eventually happen, and for that let's all raise our glasses to Her Majesty and sing together, "God save the gracious queen!"
Jim David can be heard on his interview podcast Jim David's Icons. His comedy CDs are available on iTunes, and his novel You'll Be Swell is available on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble and Sony eReader.