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18 March 2014

The Introduction of Same-Sex Marriage to the UK

The first same-sex weddings in England and Wales will be able to take place from 29 March 2014, with couples wishing to be among the first to take advantage of the new legislation needing to give formal notice by March 13th. It comes after the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act received Royal Assent in July 2013.

From June, people will also be able to take part in same-sex weddings in some British consulates and armed forces bases overseas or in military chapels.

The Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat leaderships all backed the proposals, though there was opposition from many Conservative MPs. Most Labour and Lib Dem MPs were in favour.

Under the terms of the bill, religious organisations will have to "opt in" to offering weddings, with the Church of England and Church in Wales being prevented in law from doing so. Both were against same-sex marriage anyway.

The Church of England has ruled that same-sex couples may ask for special prayers after being married, though it will not be a service of blessing.

The rules are more stringent for members of the clergy, banning anyone in a same-sex marriage from being ordained or anyone already in holy orders to marry their partner, although they may enter into a civil partnership.

The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Muslim Council of Great Britain and the Network of Sikh Organisations are against same-sex marriage.

Among Jews, the United Synagogue opposes it, though the Liberal and Reform synagogues support same-sex marriage.

Quakers are in favour of same-sex marriage and will allow ceremonies to take place on their premises.

The Scottish Parliament has also passed legislation to introduce same-sex marriage, with the first ceremonies expected to take place in Autumn 2014. The Church of Scotland and Catholic Church are not in favour.

Legislation to allow same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland is not being considered at present.

England, Wales and Scotland will join Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, and Uruguay in allowing same-sex marriage. It is also permitted in some states of the USA and parts of Mexico.
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