17 Jul 2013

Gay marriage becomes law in England and Wales

Speaker John Bercow announces in the Commons that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill has been granted Royal Assent by the Queen, to cheers from MPs.

Gay marriage becomes legal in England and Wales (Reuters)

The bill, which despite opposition was heavily backed by both MPs and peers, finished its passage through parliament last night.

Notifying MPs of Royal Assent, Speaker Bercow said: “I have to notify the house in accordance with the Royal Assent 1967 that Her Majesty has signified her Royal Assent to the following acts… Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.”

Weddings next summer

On Tuesday night MPs decided not to oppose a number of minor changes made by the House of Lords to the bill, which will see partners legally allowed to wed from next summer.

Among the changes agreed were protections for transgender couples which will allow people to change sex and remain married.

There will also be a review of whether belief organisations such as the Humanists will be allowed to carry out marriages, while ministers said they were prepared to look at eliminating any difference in the treatment of gay couples when it came to pension schemes.

However under the terms of the bill, religious organisations will have to “opt in” to offering weddings, with the Church of England and Church in Wales being banned in law from doing so.


During the Commons debate, Equalities Minister Maria Miller said the passing of the bill was “clear affirmation” that “respect for each and every person is paramount, regardless of age, religion, gender, ethnicity or sexuality”, she added.

But Conservative MP Sir Gerald Howarth, one of the bill’s opponents, said it was “astonishing that a bill for which there is absolutely no mandate, against which a majority of Conservatives voted, has been bulldozed through both houses”.