Britons celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriage on Wednesday as Queen Elizabeth II granted her royal stamp of approval, a ceremonial action that signals wide-spread support for the law.
In a historic moment, civil and religious ceremonies will now be allowed in both England and Wales for gay couples. The law also provides for previously established civil partnerships—similar to US civil unions—to be converted into legally recognized marriages, ABC News reports.
The royal assent comes just one day after the bill cleared Parliament, and it is being touted as one of the most 'radical' pieces of social legislation since the Queen's coronation.
According to the UK Huffington Post, despite having cross-party support, the bill faced harsh opposition in both the House of Commons and the Lords. In response to negative comments made during debate, equalities minister Yvette Cooper said it was "time to celebrate and not discriminate."
"This is a historic moment," noted culture secretary Maria Miller. "[This bill] is a wonderful achievement and 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."
"Once what was felt, or considered, to be a radical will soon be the law of the land," exclaimed Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as he reflected on the bill at a marriage equality rally across from Parliament. "People will look back on it and think, 'what on Earth was the fuss all about?'"
Same-sex marriages in Britain are anticipated to begin next summer.
Lucia Brown is a summer editorial intern at Common Dreams.