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Queen’s New Year’s Awards List Includes McKellan, Minogue

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Jan 1, 2008
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The Queen of England has issued her annual New Year Honors citations, with recipients this year including Sir Ian McKellan, honored for promoting GLBT equality, and Australian pop star Kylie Minogue.

CNN.com reported (www.cnn.com/2007/SHOWBIZ/Music/12/29/kylie.royal/index.html?eref=rss_showbiz%20and%20http://365gay.com/Newscon07/12/123007ian.htm) on Dec. 30 that Queen Elizabeth II’s annual list honors an array of recipients for their contributions to U.K. society.

McKellan, a highly regarded actor of stage and screen, was recognized for his efforts to bring GLBT people up to par legally and socially with heterosexuals. The 68-year-old actor, who already has been dubbed with a knighthood, received the Companion of Honor award.

The Dec. 30 edition of the Daily Times also carried an article about the awards, specifying that McKellan had been granted his latest honor in recognition of his "outstanding achievements as an actor and also for his work in championing the causes of diversity," including his defense of gays and lesbians during a visit to Singapore last July; the city-state has contemplated striking antigay laws from the books.

The 39-year-old Minogue was awarded the OBE, or Order of the British Empire, following a battle with breast cancer; 63-year-old Ian Wilmut, the professor whose efforts to create a mammal clone led to Dolly the sheep in 1996, was also granted an OBE.

CNN reported that the annual New Year Honors awards include knighthoods and peerages, which bring their recipients the titles of Sir and Lord (or Lady), respectively. Other levels of recognition are also provided by the list, such as the MBE, or "Member of the British Empire," which was awarded to at least one British subject, Capt. Tracy Palmer, in recognition of Palmer’s efforts during wide-spread flooding in England last summer.

An editorial in the Times (www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/article3105581.ece), published Dec. 29, addressed the issue of a lack of parity for the male spouses of heterosexual nobility created by such awards, as well as same-sex spouses similarly not gaining recognition.

Though the wife of a heterosexual man granted a knighthood or peerage will also take a title due to her husband’s new status, a man married to a newly dubbed Dame, for example, is accorded no such honor; nor is the same-sex spouse of a knight, for example.

The Times editorial stated, "Many changes are required to make the New Year and the Queen’s Birthday Honours more modern and relevant."

Continued the article, "Among the reforms... should be a provision that husbands, and civil partners, should be allowed to bask in the glory reflected from gongs."

The editorial went on, "Sir Ian McKellen is one of the great Shakespearian actors of our time and yesterday added Companion of Honour to the knighthood he collected in 1990. But just as there is no reason for him to be embarrassed about his sexuality there is no reason why any partner should not enjoy some of the recognition given to Sir Ian thanks to his services to the arts."

Said the editorial, "There is even less reason why Sir Ian, a founder member of Stonewall, the gay rights group, should not be free to share recognition of his services to equality. If there was a Mrs McKellen, she would benefit from her husband’s award."

The article summed up, "[The] husbands and civil partners denied recognition rightly afforded to the wives of good lords and fine knights deserve better. So do those women, and gay men, who earn the esteem of the nation."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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