While bookies around the world are focused on the Royal Baby Bump, a lot of Brits are already celebrating a windfall. With the Queen’s Royal Assent at 3:06pm today, England and Wales brought something equally (if not more) important into the world: same-sex marriage.
The Queen has given Royal Assent to Same Sex Marriage. Aggressive homosexuals, please note. Go forth and propose.
— Chris Bryant (@ChrisBryantMP) July 17, 2013
Same-sex marriage supporters have been waiting for the UK to join the fair side ever since Culture Minister Maria Miller promised a bill promoting marriage equality in 2012. In the past few months The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill has been trudging along, passing its first reading in January, its second in February and its third in May. In the final stretch, it cleared the House of Lords on Monday, the House of Commons yesterday and the Queen’s desk today, finally making same-sex marriage official in England and Wales!
Even though there’s always reason to worry, Tuesday’s House of Commons awash with pink carnations showed supporters they had nothing to fear. After the amendments passed with little protest, Culture Minister Maria Miller, the bill’s sponsor, applauded Parliament for doing what’s right.
The completion of the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill through parliament, undefeated in all aspects, is a tremendous achievement. 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.
Ultimately if two people love each other then they should be able to demonstrate their commitment to each other through marriage. This is a historic moment that will resonate in many people’s lives – and I am proud that we have made it happen.
Miller isn’t the only one celebrating Britain’s steps towards a brighter, fairer future. Earlier this week as the bill passed through the House of Lords, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg spoke at a same-sex marriage vigil wearing a pink carnation in solidarity.
Yes, this bill has been surrounded by controversy. Yes, it is an extraordinary step. But I hope, in a very short space of time, everyone will look back and think what on earth was the fuss all about. It should be in my view, entirely unremarkable, and not unusual that people who want to express their love to each other and commemorate their love and celebrate their love – regardless of who they are, regardless of their sexuality, regardless of their gender – should be able to do so on an equal footing. Celebrating love in an equal way across society is what this is all about and I want to thank you for bringing this great change about.
Even though the MPs are the players that made the bill into law, same-sex marriage supporters all over the UK recognize how far we’re coming. Stonewall’s Chief Executive Ben Summerskill thanked all of their volunteers throughout England and Wales for achieving this win before vowing to help their Scottish neighbours.
It’s impossible to express how much joy this historic step will bring to tens of thousands of gay people and their families and friends. The Bill’s progress through Parliament shows that, at last, the majority of politicians in both Houses understand the public’s support for equality – though it’s also reminded us that gay people still have powerful opponents.
It doesn’t bring out the same emotions as a parliamentary version of the national anthem, but the Gay Men’s Chorus stood outside the House of Lords celebrating the win as best they can.
Even though people are out celebrating now, we’re still a wee bit away from marching hand in hand to city hall. Before people can start calling each other Wifey or Hubs, governmental departments need to get past the red tape by drafting up new forms, training registrars in new procedures and updating the current computer system. A formal timeline of the final steps should be released this fall, so clear your calendar. But soon, possibly as early as summer 2014, the red tape tangles can be traded for wedding bands. And hopefully Scotland will be waiting at the altar too.