Now it's official: Queen Elizabeth II has provided her royal stamp of approval for a law permitting same-sex couples to get married in England and Wales. The news comes one day after the bill cleared Parliament. (As we reported yesterday, the House of Commons agreed to "a number of small amendments made to the bill by the House of Lords," the upper house of Parliament.) It is not clear when or if Scotland and Northern Ireland will have a similar law.
The queen's approval is a formality for the bill, which was introduced in January with the support of Prime Minister David Cameron. Lawmakers cheered the news from House of Commons Speaker John Bercow. Same-sex marriages will begin in England and Wales next summer—but, as the Washington Post explains, religious institutions may still refuse to take part:
The law enables gay couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies in England and Wales, provided that the religious institution consents. The Church of England, the country’s official faith, is barred from performing such ceremonies.
It also will allow couples who had previously entered into civil partnerships — which were introduced in 2005 and carry similar rights and responsibilities to marriage — to convert their relationships to marriage.
England and Wales will now join parts of the U.S. and 14 other countries—namely, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, and certain jursidictions of Mexico—in legalizing same-sex marriages. Additionally, Uruguay and New Zealand have similar laws coming into effect later this summer.
Here's a map of where in the world same-sex couples can now get married, via KQED news.