Queen Elizabeth II has praised a gay charity, in what is believed to be her first ever comment about the LGBTI community.
In her 62-year reign of the UK and the Commonwealth, she has never once visited or become a patron of a charity for gay rights.
And even in reforming laws for the community, such as when homosexuality was decriminalized or same-sex marriage in England and Wales passed into law, the words ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, ‘bisexual’, and ‘transgender’ have never been reported as crossing the lips of the reigning monarch.
But in a first, the Queen has praised the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard on its 40th birthday.
She said: ‘Best wishes and congratulations to all concerned on this most special anniversary.’
The switchboard, which supports LGBTs by providing a non-judgmental ear on the phone, was celebrated at a gala evening attended by a plethora of celebrities, politicians and supporters.
Several political leaders praised the charity.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: ‘Over the 40 years since it was established, the London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard has made a real difference day in and day out to the lives of LGB&T people.
‘I would like to pay tribute to the volunteers and staff of the switchboard for their dedication to providing help and support to the LGB&T community and I wish you every success in the future.’
Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, described the switchboard as the ‘first port of call for many thousands of people’.
‘[It is a] testament to the dedication of a small army of unpaid, unseen, passionate volunteers that have worked selflessly over many years,’ he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said even though the UK has made huge leaps forward for equality, there is a still huge amount of work to be done.’
He said: ‘Every year, the Switchboard answers thousands of calls from people who still feel isolated by their sexuality.
‘They can be struggling to come out to their family and friends, suffering from homophobic bullying at school or discrimination at work, or simply looking for someone neutral to talk to about their life.
‘Whatever the issue, big or small, they know Switchboard is there for them.’
And Labour leader Ed Milliband added: ‘I would like to congratulate the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard on reaching their 40th anniversary.
‘Whether it be listening to someone’s difficulties in coming to terms with their sexuality, or letting people know what help is available in difficult situations, being there at the end of a phone is important.
‘LLGS is a remarkable organisation of volunteers, and I would like to pass on my thanks and best wishes to the team for the work they do supporting the LGBT community and their families.’