It took less than a day for Queen Elizabeth II to give her Royal Assent to the same-sex marriage bill for England and Wales. The clock now ticks down for the next year to 17 July 2014 before the new law goes into effect.
Despite the tendency to claim that “The queen’s approval was a formality and is the last step necessary for a bill to become law,” the reality is that Queen Elizabeth does have the right to refuse Royal Assent for any bill presented to her. No monarch in the United Kingdom has done that since 1708 when Queen Anne refused to give Royal Assent to a bill that would have created a militia in Scotland.
The bill was pushed by a number of religious organizations including the Quakers who believe that marriage is a right and a rite for more than just opposite-sex couples. The Liberal Democrats, who are partners with the Conservatives in the current government, pushed the bill as well. The law, once it goes into effect, will allow same-sex couples to obtain both civil and religious ceremonies in England and Wales; however, the law bars the Church of England and the Church of Wales from conducting such marriages.
It will also allow those who have previously entered into civil partnerships to convert the status of their relationships to full marriages. The law also calls for a study into offering two-tiered marriages with opposite-sex couples possibly being given the right to civil partnerships as a less binding marital status.
The bill was introduced to Parliament back in January and had the support of members from the three major parties as well as several other lesser parties. The bill was supported by Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nicolas Clegg; however, the majority of the resistance to the law came from within the Conservative Party, and Cameron might be facing a vote of no confidence in the near future as his political opponents consider taking on his leadership.