By Dan Littauer
LONDON, United Kingdom — The upper chamber of the British parliament, the House of Lords, just backed the UK government plans to legalize same-sex marriage in England and Wales.
LGBT couples in England and Wales will be able to marry next spring, after the House of Lords just gave Third Reading to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
The Bill’s amendments must technically be approved by the lower house, The Commons – if approved the Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent, a formality where Queen Elizabeth II signs it into law.
LGBT advocates outside the British parliament celebrated the news.
Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of the UK advocacy group Stonewall said: “It’s impossible to express how much joy this historic step will bring to tens of thousands of gay people and their families and friends.
“The Bill’s progress through Parliament shows that, at last, the majority of politicians in both Houses understand the public’s support for equality – though it’s also reminded us that gay people still have powerful opponents.
“Stonewall’s volunteers, supporters and staff have worked flat-out for equal marriage in England and Wales, and Stonewall Scotland’s campaign continues north of the Border. We’ll redouble our efforts in Scotland so that every single gay person in Britain will soon enjoy full equality.
Veteran British LGBT activist Peter Tatchell, called the vote ”a defeat for discrimination and a victory for love and marriage.
“After a 21-year-long campaign, we are now on the cusp of securing same-sex marriage, he added.
“Ending discrimination against same-sex couples in marriage law will overturn the last major legal discrimination against LGBT people in Britain.” It is of huge symbolic importance; signalling that same-sex love has social recognition, acceptance and parity.
The bill applies only to England and Wales — Scotland is already in the process of legalizing marriage equality with a bill expected to be put to the vote later this year.
In Northern Ireland, lawmakers rejected a marriage equality draft bill, leaving it the only part of the United Kingdom with no plans to legalize same-sex marriage.
Dan Littauer is a journalist who specializes in LGBT current affairs, travel writing, feature writing and investigative journalism.