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UK legalizes same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriage will be legal in England and Wales after legislation received final approval from Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday. The House of Commons [official website] gave final approval of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill [HC Bill 3] on Tuesday. The original legislation was introduced in January [JURIST report] and will effectively extend the application of the Marriage Act of 1949 [materials] to same-sex as well as opposite-sex couples. The law will allow an exception for any religious institutions that do not wish to perform same-sex weddings. Same-sex couples in England and Wales have been permitted to enter into civil partnerships since 2005, allowing them to receive many of the same legal rights as married opposite-sex couples. The new law, however, will officially enable [BBC report] same-sex couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies by a consenting religious institution. It will also allow same-sex couples already in civil partnerships to convert their relationship into a marriage. Prime Minister David Cameron [official website], who also serves as the Leader of the Conservative Party [official website], has strongly supported the bill. His support has created tension [JURIST report] within the Conservative Party.

Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] continues to be a controversial issue internationally. Last month the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled in two landmark same-sex marriage cases. In United States v. Windsor [SCOTUSblog backgrounder], the court ruled [JURIST report] that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive] is unconstitutional. In Hollingsworth v. Perry [SCOTUSblog backgrounder], the court ruled that the petitioners lacked standing to appeal the district court's order striking down Proposition 8 [text, PDF; JURIST news archive], California's same-sex marriage ban. In May France legalized [JURIST report] same-sex marriage and established the right of same-sex couples to adopt. Also in May Brazil legalized [JURIST report] same-sex marriage in a court ruling that prevented notaries from denying to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples. In the same month, same-sex marriage legislation was approved in the US states of Minnesota, Delaware and Rhode Island [JURIST reports]. In April Ireland announced it would hold a referendum [JURIST report] on same-sex marriage.

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