Royal Assent…

photo: Houses of ParliamentIt’s over at last… after five months of parliamentary debate, the Same Sex Marriage Bill for England and Wales has become the Same Sex Marriage Act.

Just after 3pm today the Queen signed it into law – though it will be a little longer before the first weddings under the Act can take place.

Outstanding issues remain – pensions, how the new bill relates to the gender recognition law, and the continued failiure to include many trans and nonbinary people properly within marriage legislation.

Mixed-sex Civil Partnerships will be addressed as a result of the parliamentary debate – something which had been proposed ten years ago but dropped from the original civil partnership law.

However, it’s a big step forward on the way to equality before the law regardless of gender or sexual orientation – and one which has been won by a huge majority at each vote.

The Act, which applies to England and Wales, will:

*   allow same sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies;
*   allow same sex couples to marry in religious ceremonies, where the religious organisation has ‘opted in’ to conduct such ceremonies and the minister of religion agrees;
*   protect those religious organisations and their representatives who don’t wish to conduct marriages of same sex couples from successful legal challenge;
*   enable civil partners to convert their partnership to a marriage, if they wish; and
*   enable married individuals to change their legal gender without having to end their marriage, but with a peculiar ‘spousal veto’ in place.

Women and Equalities Minister, Maria Miller said, “Marriage is the bedrock of our society and now irrespective of sexuality everyone in British society can make that commitment. It is a wonderful achievement and whilst this legislation may be about marriage, its impact is so much wider.  Making marriage available to all couples demonstrates our society’s respect for all individuals regardless of their sexuality.  It demonstrates the importance we attach to being able to live freely.  It says so much about the society that we are and the society that we want to live in.

“The fact that the Bill passed through both Houses undefeated is a huge accomplishment for the Government.
“This is a historic moment that will resonate in many people’s lives.  I am proud that we have made it happen, and I look forward to the first same sex wedding by next summer.”