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House of Lords passes marriage-equality bill

LONDON – The House of Lords overwhelmingly voted today to approve the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, in a third and final reading.

The bill goes back to the House of Commons to take up the minor amendments to the bill, which the lower chamber of Parliament passed 366-161 on May 21. The revised bill is expected to pass by a wide margin.

After a final passage by the House of Commons, the bill goes to Queen Elizabeth II for royal assent, which is pretty much automatic. The law will go into effect as soon as royal assent is made, and the first weddings will take place in 2014.

The marriage bill will only apply to England and Wales, not the rest of the United Kingdom.

The marriage issue generated a lively debate throughout the United Kingdom, and supporters of equal rights agreed to protect religious leaders on marriage matters. The bill bans the powerful Church of England and the Church in Wales from offering same-gender marriages, and protects other religions that wish to prohibit such weddings.

Same-gender marriage has been legalized in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, the Netherlands (and the Caribbean island of Saba), New Zealand (August 2013), Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay (August 2013). Legal experts are now debating whether Costa Rica has also legalized same-gender marriage.

In Mexico, same-gender marriage is available in the Federal District (Mexico City) and in the states of Oaxaca and Quintana Roo. The marriages are recognized nationwide by Supreme Court order.

In the United States, same-gender marriage has been legalized in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota (Aug. 1), New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island (Aug. 1), Vermont and Washington -- and in Washington, D.C. It also is legal within the Coquille Indian tribe in Oregon, the Suquamish Indian tribe in Washington state and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Michigan.

Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.