As of midnight on 28th March 2014, it is now legal for homosexual couples to marry. The government passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in July 2013, but it was only from 13th March that gay couples could register their intention to marry, and from 29th March that the ceremony could be performed.
The news marked the culmination of years of campaigning by gay couples to have British law recognise their unions. In 2005, England and Wales introduced civil partnerships to allow homosexual couples the same legal rights as heterosexual partners, but for many that was not enough. Many couples who refused a civil partnership are looking forward to being officially married.
George told Her Campus that he was pleased to hear the news that gay couples can now legally marry. He was especially happy that homosexual couples will now receive “the same legal protection” to heterosexual couples – for example if something happened to their husband or wife.
Cat agreed that “it’s great that we are moving towards marriage equality”. She believes that “people should be able to marry whoever they choose” and it is a positive thing that the government now agrees.
Ruth Hunt, acting chief executive of gay rights charity Stonewall, commented that the news made Saturday 29th March a “momentous day for England and Wales”. Marriage is a custom that many heterosexual couples have taken for granted for years, and finally homosexual couples can enjoy that same right.
She added that “the first weddings will send a powerful message to every person in Britain and around the world that you can live and love as you choose, regardless of your sexual orientation”.
However, the Act does not provide complete equality. Both Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches have deemed same-sex marriages illegal. As neither will perform same-sex marriages, there are now two legal definitions of marriage: one which the state follows, and the other that the church follows.
The Right Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, told the BBC that “it’s untidy for the law to have two definitions” but went on to say, “I think we can live with untidiness”.
Cat admitted that without the Church’s support of the Act, it is not complete equality. She commented that society “shouldn’t expect people to just give up what they believe”, but noted that “we can’t have equality without complete tolerance”. A BBC survey revealed that further to the Church, one in five adults would turn down an invitation to a same-sex wedding.
Despite the Church’s official intolerance of same-sex marriage, Rev Andrew Cain, vicar of St. Mary’s Church, Kilburn, is set to defy the church he works for and marry his long-term partner this summer.
“It’s more important to do what is right, than to be frightened into not doing what I believe to be true. And I won’t be frightened by what the possible consequences might be”, he said. These consequences could include losing his job and his home, even though he has worked for the Church of England for 25 years.
George told Her Campus that it is “sad for people who are both gay and religious”, but hoped that society could continue to move towards a future with complete equality.
The news may have split the opinion of many, but it is still a hugely significant step in society, as the very concept of marriage changes. As the news broke, the rainbow flag – an instantly recognisable symbol of gay pride – flew over Whitehall. This symbol cast a bright shadow over the country as a new era of gay rights began.
Edited by Luisa Parnell