The "Marriage (Same Sex Couples( Bill" for England and Wales is on track to become law by Friday. Monday it passed its final stages in the House of Lords where some minor changes were made.
Government minister Lady Stowell said the bill "puts right something which is wrong" and had been improved by detailed scrutiny in the Upper House. "I can't claim to be a gay rights campaigner, but I am a firm believer in justice and fairness," she said.http://www.bbc.co.uk/...
Among other things, the amendments require the Government to look into survivor benefits and what changes need to be made to employer's schemes.
It now goes back to the Commons for final consideration. This will include some Government amendments tidy up any of the sections etc after the Lords' changes. At the moment the exact timetable has not been established but all three days to Thursday, when the House adjourns for the Summer recess, have slots for considerations of Lords amendments. The debate is likely to be before Wednesday to allow final passage and submission for Royal Assent. This is entirely formal and will be given by Lords Commissioners who are appointed by the Queen. Assent is then announced by the Speakers in the Lords and Commons.
The new Act will only apply to England and Wales. The Scottish Parliament plans to pass parallel legislation in the Fall and Northern Ireland is unlikely to pass anything. Those living there can of course still marry in another of the constituent countries and it will be recognized throughout the UK for all public purposes.
As a piece of trivia; Kate Middleton, the wife of Prince William, is due to give birth any day. (Will be interesting to see whether the Law or the sprog appear first) The millennium old arrangements of primogeniture have been changed so, whether the child is a boy or girl, they will be third in line to the throne after Charles and William. He or she will be perfectly able to marry someone of the same sex under this law. Could be fun with some of the Commonwealth countries where they are still enforcing the old colonial anti-gay laws.
Also please note:
I have not referred to this as an "marriage equality" measure but used the exact title of the Bill; although it is close enough to warrant the tag. The existing arrangements for "civil partnerships" will still be available for same sex couples, but not opposite sex ones. Those in civil partnerships already will be able to convert these into marriages. Religious bodies are able to opt to hold same sex marriage ceremonies in accordance with their beliefs (you may note that one of the Lords amendments includes a Reform Synagogue onto the list of places authorised). The Church of England and its sister Church in Wales are not allowed to hold same-sex marriages as this would need a change in Canon Law which is dealt with by its General Synod.
In addition most (but I understand not all) anomalies for transsexual people who married or in a civil partnership and prior to this legislation obtained a Gender Recognition Certificate (the formal recognition of sexual re-assignment in the UK when a new birth certificates is also issued). Before the new acquired gender would have meant automatic dissolution of a marriage or civil partnership. Those who are now married will have protection but I believe there are currently no provisions to allow there to be a continuity for couples already affected.
The passage of the Bill does not mean same-sex couple marriages will start immediately. There are a number of regulations, concerning many aspects, where a different sex relationship may be implied which will need to be changed. It is likely that implementation will be co-ordinated with Scotland and sometime next Summer is likely.
More background is on the BBC site.