England and Wales Say “I Do” to Gay Marriage

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gay marriage england wales

by Stuart Haggas

On Wednesday, July 17, 2013, gay men and lesbians of England and Wales looked to Buckingham Palace for news from the Queen. It wasn’t a royal birth announcement, or Prince Harry’s latest semi-naked exploits that they waited for. It was something even closer to their hearts.

Two days earlier, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act had passed its third and final reading in Parliament’s House of Lords, followed by one last debate in the House of Commons. All that was left for the bill to become law was Royal Assent—a symbolic formality whereby the Queen is asked to approve any new British law before it goes into effect.

Twitter was abuzz with excitement, including photomontages of the Queen in colorful rainbow flag outfits. When Buckingham Palace gave the royal seal of approval, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: “After a long parliamentary process, gay marriage became law tonight–something I believe we can be proud of as a country,” Ben Summerskill, chief executive of British lesbian, gay, and bisexual equality organization Stonewall tweeted: “When I was a boy I never imagined I’d see this in my lifetime. Thank you,” and gay, actor, comedian, and TV presenter Stephen Fry tweeted: “Thanks, Your Majesty, for the Royal Assent. You soon won’t be the only married queen in Britain. Hurrah hurray hurroo!”

The first legally recognized same-sex weddings took place in England and Wales on March 29, 2014. From June 2014, same-sex couples may get married in British Embassies, Consulates and High Commissions, as well as on British military bases. And by the end of 2014, gay couples in civil partnerships may convert these to marriages. The new law didn’t include Scotland or Northern Ireland, but gay-rights activists continue to fight for marriage equality throughout the UK.

It’s not just British gays and lesbians who’ll benefit. Certain rules and conditions apply to foreign nationals wishing to marry here, but now those rules will be the same for all foreign nationals regardless of sexual preference.

Although it’s an upgrade from Civil Partnerships that were introduced in the UK in 2005, the Church of England maintained that they don’t wish to conduct same-sex marriages; hence the new law doesn’t allow same-sex couples to marry in a church. Fortunately, there are plenty of palaces, castles, country houses, landmarks, and make-believe Italianate villages throughout England and Wales where the community can get married.

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