A bill to allow same-sex marriage in England and Wales is now law, though the unions aren’t expected to take place until 2014.
Queen Elizabeth II has given her assent to the landmark bill, which the British House of Commons passed Tuesday, the house’s speaker, John Bercow, said Wednesday.
The first same-sex wedding could be held as early as next summer.
The law does not come into force immediately because government departments need time to make changes. New processes must be drawn up for registrars, and new forms will also have to be drawn up.
The government expects to announce a more formal timetable for the implementation of the law in the fall.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill cleared the House of Lords and the House of Commons this week, just before the summer recess. The monarch’s assent — a formality in the United Kingdom — makes the measure official.
The bill had the backing of British Prime Minister David Cameron, but his commitment to it put him at odds with many in his Conservative Party and its grass-roots supporters. The Conservatives govern in coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
The bill was also opposed by religious groups, including the Church of England.
The Catholic Church in England and Wales said that the law’s passage “marks a watershed in English law and heralds a profound social change,” and that it regretted that the bill had been “rushed though” Parliament.
“With this new legislation, marriage has now become an institution in which openness to children, and with it the responsibility on fathers and mothers to remain together to care for children born into their family unit, are no longer central. That is why we were opposed to this legislation on principle,” a statement said.
Read more: cnn.com