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Queen expected to give royal assent to marriage equality in England and Wales

LONDON – The House of Commons today voted overwhelmingly to give final approval to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which will apply only to England and Wales in the United Kingdom.

Hundreds of MPs wore pink carnations in the hallowed hall in Parliament to show their support for the bill. Although the House of Commons had already approved the bill, it returned to the chamber for a final vote after the House of Lords tacked on a few minor amendments. The debate was fairly brief and overwhelmingly upbeat, as many speakers expressed their joy that their gay and lesbian constituents would be able to legally marry and be granted equal benefits and rights as straight married couples.

The Speaker gently reminded MPs to stick to debate on the amendments.

The House of Lords voted Monday to approve the measure. The bill now goes to Queen Elizabeth II for royal assent, which is expected to be automatic. The queen has never refused to sign a bill into law since her reign began on Feb. 6, 1952. In fact, British monarchs have routinely followed the will of Parliament since the 19th century.

The law will go into effect as soon as royal assent is made, possibly as soon as week's end, and the first weddings will begin in 2014.

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. Those provisions helped to scuttle opposition to the bill.

Same-gender marriage has now 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.