A trek through the House of Commons, the House of Lords and sealed with a royal assent from Queen Elizabeth II made it official Wednesday: Passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill has officially brought marriage equality to England and Wales. They join the other 16 countries that have now legalized marriage equality.
The passage of the Bill has been seen by many as the obvious progression from the Civil Partnership Act of 2004, which granted legal recognition for same-sex couples. The bill gives civil partners the option to wed, and allows those in heterosexual marriages where one person changes gender to remain married. Steven Fielding, political scientist with the University of Nottingham, told the Associated Press that opposition to the bill …
… seemed restricted to a very small number of people very vigorous in their views. It was restricted to the back benchers of the Conservative Party. It wasn’t shared across the political spectrum. It was an issue whose time had come. To oppose it seemed slightly strange.
Opponents of the bill griped in quiet corners of England that the new legislation had been shoved through Parliament without acknowledgement of their opinions. One such dissenter, Tory Lord Framlingham, responded to the passage of the bill with an eerie and ironic statement:
Happiness won at the expense of other people’s happiness is rarely trouble-free in the long term.
The new law does make some concession to those who oppose it. While it allows for same-sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies and religious ceremonies, those religious ceremonies can only be held with the consent of religious organizations that “opt in.”
Similar legislation was introduced to the Scottish Parliament this past June 27, and there is hope that Scotland will join England and Wales in legalizing same-sex marriage in the near future. Benjamin Cohen, publisher of PinkNews and founder of the Out4Marriage campaign, reacted to the bill with excitement while noting that there is still work to be done on the European front:
It is absolutely fantastic that this change in the law, almost uniquely in the world, was proposed by a Conservative prime minister and his Liberal Democrat Deputy with the support of the Labor party leader … Now we eagerly await the debate in the Scottish Parliament and look forward to politicians in Northern Ireland following Cameron, Clegg and Miliband in supporting gay rights. It will be ridiculous if some parts of the UK are more equal than others.
Photo of a rainbow’d Queen Elizabeth courtesy of Twitter user VioletL_Phoenix.