With two major U.S. Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage looming on the horizon, the British government has taken a step that virtually ensures gay and lesbian couples in England and Wales will be able to marry beginning next year.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s marriage equality bill survived a feared rebellion in the House of Lords that would have derailed the measure, which won prior approval from the House of Commons.
The House of Lords’ attempt to quash the proposed law was rejected by a voted of 390 to 148.
Civil partnerships have been legal in England since 2005. The new law would allow civil partners to convert their arrangement to marriages.
The law would ban the Church of England and Church of Wales from performing same-sex weddings but allow other religious organizations to chose for themselves whether to do so.
“This is a victory for love, marriage and equality,” said gay activist Peter Tatchell, who coordinates the Equal Love campaign. “We are another step closer to our goal of equal marriage. It signals that the House of Lords accepts the principle that we should all be equal before the law.”
Labour and Liberal Democrats largely supported the bill, while Tories were split.
In support of the bill, Tory peer Lord Jenkin said: “Other people have referred to their anniversaries. Last year, my wife and I celebrated our diamond wedding, and I have to say that it has been a marriage with mutual comfort and support. Is this bill going to redefine that marriage? I cannot see how that could possibly happen.”