Same-Sex Marriage Legalized In England & Wales
With the final formality of Royal Assent granted today, same-sex marriage has been legalized in at least part of the United Kingdom:
The Queen gave her approval to the Bill – one of the most radical pieces of social legislation of her reign – this afternoon.
It opens the way for the first legally recognised same-sex weddings to take place in England and Wales by next summer and brings the centuries-old understanding of marriage as being solely between a man and a woman to an end.
Many MPs took to Twitter to say they were “delighted” with the news. Mike Weatherley, Tory MP for Hove and Portslade, said it had been “completely at odds with an open and democratic society to exclude gay couples from the important institution of marriage”.
Baroness Thornton, shadow equalities minister in the House of Lords, said there was a “huge ‘hear, hear’ when the Lord Speaker announced royal assent”, followed by “lots of smiles and cheerfulness”.
Earlier this week, peers gave their assent to the third reading of the Government’s same-sex marriage bill without a formal vote after a short debate in the Lords. They also backed plans for a review of pension arrangements for gay couples.
At the time, Baroness Stowell, the Government spokesman who steered the bill through the Lords, told a chamber packed with peers wearing pink carnations, that it was an “historic” achievement.
But opponents accused the Government of using a parliamentary “bulldozer” to speed the change through.
The passage of the Bill brings an end to one of the most acrimonious debates of recent years which has divided the Conservative party and, at times, pitted Church against State.
TIming for implementation of the new law is somewhat unclear, but it would appear that there will be actual marriages taking place by the start of 2014. As noted, though, the law only applies in England and Wales. There is a separate marriage equality bill pending in the Scottish Parliament that is expected to pass, but it’s unclear to me what the status of the matter in Northern Ireland will end up being. Nonetheless, this more or less brings to ten the number European nations in which same-sex marriage is recognized, with another 12 recognition some other type of legal partnership for same-sex couples.