Prime Minister David Cameron’s bill to allow same-sex marriage in England and Wales formally became law after Queen Elizabeth II gave her assent to the legislation.
The speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, made the announcement to lawmakers in London today and the first marriage is due to take place by summer 2014. The Commons approved amendments to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill yesterday after it was passed by the unelected House of Lords the previous day.
“This is a historic moment that will resonate in many people’s lives,” Women and Equalities Minister Maria Miller said in an e-mailed statement. “I am proud that we have made it happen, and I look forward to the first same-sex wedding by next summer.” Making marriage available to all couples “demonstrates our society’s respect for all individuals regardless of their sexuality,” she said.
The law will allow same-sex couples to marry in religious services where the religious organization has “opted in” as well as at civil ceremonies. Couples with civil partnerships will be able to convert them into marriages and people in heterosexual marriages will be able to change gender and stay married.
“Aggressive homosexuals, please note,” opposition Labour Party lawmaker Chris Bryant, who is gay, said on his Twitter Inc. feed in reference to language used by a critic of the bill when it was being debated in the House of Commons. “Go forth and propose.”
The legislation was opposed in the Commons by more than 100 lawmakers from Cameron’s Conservative Party. Tory activists say it is driving Conservative voters toward the U.K. Independence Party, which made gains in local elections in May at the expense of Cameron’s party and their Liberal Democrat coalition partners.
Quakers, Liberal and Reformed Judaism and Unitarians backed the change in the law and have said they will hold same-sex marriages in their places of worship.
“The voice of minority faith groups has been heard on this,” Paul Parker, a spokesman for Quakers in Britain, said in an e-mailed statement. “We respect others who do not yet share our view. For Quakers, this is a matter of religious freedom.”