The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill received royal assent this morning, thus legalizing gay marriage in both England and Wales. Royal assent in the United Kingdom takes place after both the House of Lords and the House of Commons have passed a bill. The Queen then agrees to make the bill an Act of Parliament, or law. Although royal assent is technically a formality these days, celebration is still in order!
This law affects England and Wales, but not Scotland and Northern Ireland, which are also part of the UK. (Scotland published the Scottish Marriage and Civil Partnership bill in June, but same sex marriage most likely will not be available there until 2015. Northern Ireland had its gay marriage bill voted down in April.) Despite the newfound legality of gay marriage, an issue remains with who will actually perform these unions. Both the Church of England and the Church of Wales are banned by law from officiating same sex marriages, but the law states that other organizations, like humanists, will be able to “opt in” to performing marriages. The law doesn’t require that any religious body perform the marriages.
According to BBC, we can expect to see gay and lesbian marriages in England and Wales by next summer. Cheers to England and Wales!
[Photo of Union Jack and Big Ben via Shutterstock]