The first gay marriages in England and Wales can be held from March 29 next year, Britain’s equalities minister Maria Miller announced yesterday.
Miller said marriage, which officially became legal for gay couples in July, should be “open to everyone, irrespective of whether they fall in love with someone of the same sex or opposite sex”.
“I know that many couples up and down the country will be hugely excited that they can now plan for their big day and demonstrate their love and commitment to each other by getting married,” she said.
Civil partnerships for same-sex couples have been legal in Britain since 2005, giving them identical rights and responsibilities to straight couples in a civil marriage.
But campaigners pointed to differences, such as gay couples’ inability to have religious wedding ceremonies, or to call their partnership a marriage.
British Prime Minister David Cameron pushed through the gay marriage law despite fierce opposition within his party. The new law bans the established Churches of England and Wales -- which are opposed to gay marriage -- from conducting ceremonies. Other religious institutions will be able to opt in if they wish.
Gay marriages can take place at some British consulates and military bases abroad from June.Gay marriage is legal in 14 other nations around the world, as well as parts of several other countries including 16 US states.
Punishment for homosexuality
Whereas, Britian, Australia and some states in the US have legalised gay marriages, there are still other countries which criminalise homosexuality.
>> Afghanistan: Imprisonment
>> Algeria: Fines and a jail sentence of up to three years
>> Angola: Fine and jail. Labour camp for habitual offenders
>> Antigua and Barbuda: Up to 15 years in prison
>> Bangladesh: Fine and up to 10 years in prison
>> Barbados: Life in prison
>> Bhutan: -- Between one month and one year in jail
>> Botswana: A jail sentence of up to five years
>> Dominica: Up to 25 years in prison and a possible psychiatric treatment
>> Iran: Death penalty
>> Kenya: Between 14 and 21 years in prison
>> Malaysia: Up to 20 years in prison and possibly whipping
>> Maldives: House arrest for women; banishment or whippings for men
>> Mauritania: Death penalty by public stoning
>> Saudi Arabia: Banishment, whipping, death by stoning
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