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Topics In the News
Speaker of UK's House of Commons Highlights the Fight for Equality in Speech Celebrating Queen Elizabeth
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 03/20/12
Last updated on: 03/20/12
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John Bercow looks at Queen Elizabeth during his speech celebrating her Diamond Jubilee.

On March 20, 2012, the U.K.'s Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, highlighted the struggle for equal rights in his speech in Parliament celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

At a ceremony in which a stained-glass window commemorating Queen Elizabeth II's sixty-year reign was unveiled, the Speaker of the House described the monarch as "a kaleidoscope Queen of a kaleidoscope country in a kaleidoscope Commonwealth."

He observed that today's Britain "is a different Britain from 1952 but not one detached from then. We are in so many ways a much bigger, brighter and better United Kingdom. This is a land where men and women today are equal under the law and where Your people are respected, regardless of how they live, how they look or how they love. This is a nation of many races, faiths and customs, now beginning to be reflected in Parliament."

The reference to Queen Elizabeth as a "kaleidoscope Queen" is clearly an allusion to the Kaleidoscope Trust, a charity that Bercow launched in 2011 that aims to support victims of anti-gay bigotry around the world. The emphasis on the struggle for equal rights may also be a nod toward the government's consultation on marriage equality that is now underway.

The Speaker concluded his speech to the Queen by quoting Gandhi's observation that "in a gentle way, you can shake the world": "Your Majesty, in a gentle way You have shaken this United Kingdom and the world for six decades. On behalf of all the members of the House of Commons, may I thank You wholeheartedly for all that You have done, are doing and will do for the good of our country."

Bercow's commitment to equal rights is emphasized as well in his official portrait and heraldry, which were unveiled in November 2011. The heraldry includes a series of pink triangles and rainbow colors, and the motto, "All Are Equal."

More information about the coat of arms may be found here.

Bercow has served in Parliament since 1997. He was a Conservative "frontbencher" being groomed for leadership until he defied his party in 2002 to support a Labour bill that allowed unmarried gay and heterosexual couples to adopt children.

He was elected Speaker of the House in 2009. He is the first Jewish Speaker of the House.

The Speaker presides over debates in the House, determining which members may speak. The Speaker is also responsible for maintaining order during debate, and may punish members who break the rules of the House.

The Speaker is one of the highest-ranking officials in the United Kingdom. By an Order in Council issued in 1919, the Speaker ranks in the order of precedence above all non-royal individuals except the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor, and the Lord President of the Council.

The full text of Bercow's speech may be found here.

Here is a video of the Speaker delivering his speech to Queen in Parliament.

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