The Government has confirmed that the UK’s first same-sex marriages will take place in March 2014, reports the BBC.
The decision comes after the momentous decision earlier in 2013 to pass the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which permits the lawful marriage of gay couples for the first time.
The controversial legislation was opposed by a minority of 170 in the parliamentary vote, with five registered abstentions and 74 who did not vote.
Most of the objections came from the main religious groups, who felt that the ‘sanctity’ of marriage was threatened by allowing loving same-sex couples to take the same vows and achieve the same legal status as their heterosexual counterparts.
However, the majority of MPs and the public at large were accepting of the fact that the 21st century has seen huge strides in equal rights, and that gay marriage should now take a place on the statute book, having been permitted previously only in the form of civil partnerships.
The new Act includes what the Government called a ‘quadruple lock’, designed to satisfy religious leaders, which effectively bars the Church of England and the Church of Wales from conducting any ceremonies under the Act.
The legislation also resolutely precludes any attempt to challenge the Church’s decision not to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies under equality legislation or under human rights law.
There was widespread celebration after the announcement of the law, with many recognising the momentous occasion.
Now the Government has confirmed that the first ceremonies will be able to take place from 29 March 2014.
Maria Miller is the Equalities minister.
“Marriage is one of our most important institutions, and from 29 March 2014 it will be open to everyone, irrespective of whether they fall in love with someone of the same sex or opposite sex,” she told the BBC.
Miller confirmed that she was working to ensure that those in a civil partnership could convert their relationship to a marriage, and that someone in a marriage would be entitled to change their legal gender, with both moves expected to be available in law by the end of 2014.
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