Image for Equal marriage is coming to England and Wales

Equal marriage is coming toEngland and Wales

Marriage equality is not far off for England and Wales, as the House of Lords has now given its seal of approval to legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Following the successful third reading of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill, there are some small formalities to consider in the lower House of Commons before it goes to the Queen to sign and wedding plans can commence. The Bill specifies that religious institutions are not compelled to conduct same-sex unions, but can if they want.

“We are looking at seeing the first gay weddings in the middle of 2014 because there are various issues to sort out, such as its impact on pensions,” says a spokesperson for the culture ministry.

See the moment campaigners cheered outside the House of Lords when the announcement was made:

House of Lords peer Baroness Oona Tamsyn King was joyous after the Bill’s success. “I’ve honestly never felt so privileged in my life,” she reacted. “it’s amazing to be able to get up and vote for people to have equal rights. I still can’t believe, in 2013, we really have to do that, but we do – and I’m there and, for once, the House of Lords was on it, they were all over it. I’m just absolutely thrilled.”

LGBTI lobby group Stonewall’s boss Ben Summerskill says “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.”

Activists in Scotland and Northern Ireland hope their governments will soon pass similar laws.

Here at home, Australian Marriage Equality’s Rodney Croome is excited for England and Wales but again frustrated at Australians being left behind on this issue.

“If such a traditional and conservative chamber as the House of Lords can support marriage equality than Australia’s politicians have no excuses for not supporting it too,” he says.

“Australia is now alone among developed, English-speaking countries in not allowing same-sex couples to marry.”

On the video below, watch Conservative peer Lord Fowler and Labour MP Diane Abbott speak out in support of marriage equality at the wedding reception-themed rally outside the House of Lords.