December 7, 2022

Who succeeds to the British throne if the queen is a lesbian?

In a debate in the House of Lords over ensuring that a first-born daughter of the Duke of Cambridge could become queen, a peer asked what would happen if England’s queen were a lesbian.

Hopefully there are a few novelists reading BioEdge, as the human drama of bioethics is excellent raw material for airport page-turners. A plot that surfaced this week involves the law of succession for the monarch of the United Kingdom. In a debate in the House of Lords over ensuring that a first-born daughter of the Duke of Cambridge could become queen, a peer asked what would happen if England’s queen were a lesbian.

Under the current law, which was drafted in the 18th century, only an “heir to the body” can succeed to the throne. That phrase excluded adopted children. But what about children conceived through artificial insemination or IVF?

A conservative peer, Lord True, proposed an amendment to the Act which would specify that only Royal children born in “a marriage between a man and a woman” could be considered valid heirs to the throne. He also wanted to specify that the offspring has to be the child of “both parties to that marriage”. This would exclude children conceived using sperm or eggs from a donor or surrogate.

He said: “What happens if we have a lesbian queen in a same-sex marriage who conceives using an egg implanted with donor sperm? The law should be clear, but this is a question that has not been thought through in the Bill.”

The government believes that changes are not needed. Lord True has withdrawn his amendments, but he is still worried. “This may seem fanciful or long in the future, but I believe Parliament should reflect on it,” he said. “I believe the question will inevitably arise.”

Michael Cook
Creative commons
artificial reproduction
UK