Gay marriage is a formality away from becoming British law after both houses of Parliament signed off on a bill that would allow LGBT couples in England and Wales to marry starting next summer.
The bill is waiting for a "royal assent" from Queen Elizabeth II, expected within the next few days, before it's officially law. That's after the House of Commons decided on Tuesday to agree to a number of small amendments made to the bill by the House of Lords, the unelected upper house of the U.K. Parliament.
The U.K's conservative Prime Minister David Cameron introduced the initiative to legalize gay marriage in the country, and the bill had the support of leaders from more or less every major British political party, though Cameron's Conservative party has been pretty split on the issue. But, illuminating the divisions in the country over the gay marriage issue, the scope of the measure is somewhat limited. For one thing, it won't apply in Northern Ireland or Scotland (Scottish Parliament is independently considering their own gay marriage bill). And the Church of England won't perform same-sex marriage ceremonies according to the new law. The CoE dropped its official opposition to the bill in June, citing its broad base of political support. Other religious organizations may "opt in" to performing the ceremonies.
As the BBC notes, the bill also includes protections for married individuals who identify as transgender. Gay marriage supporters in the country (not to mention in the legislature) will now focus on determining whether humanists will be allowed to perform marriages, and what the implications of same-sex marriages will be on the country's pension schemes. Those outstanding issues, and the time it'll take to resolve them, are why officials expect nearly a year-long delay in the start of same sex marriages after the bill becomes law this week.