By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
LONDON, United Kingdom – Britain recognized same-sex marriages at midnight on 29 March 2014, a historic change that many couples did not wait until dawn to celebrate.
Around the 1980s, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government passed a law that banned schools and local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality or depicting it as “a pretended family relationship.”
In 2003, Britain repealed that law without the large street protests against same-sex marriage that appeared in France. By 2005, British law provided a civil partnership that provided same-sex couples all legal protections and rights afforded heterosexual married partners, except for the label of marriage.
And in July 2013, Parliament legalized same-sex marriage by a wide margin, with the backing of Prime Minister David Cameron, who stated that no two people should be denied the right to marriage based on their sexuality. Polls demonstrated that two-thirds of Britons—especially young adult Britons—supported same-sex unions. However, BBC research suggested that a quarter of the women and half of the men surveyed would turn down an invitation to a same-sex wedding.
At midnight on 29 March 2014, Britain’s new same-sex marriage law came into effect. Couples began celebrating Britain’s first same-sex marriages within minutes. One marriage, that of Londoners Sean Adl-Tabatabai and Sinclair Treadway, included approximately one hundred guests at a town hall in Camden, and concluded at 12:10 a.m. Camden Mayor Jonathan Simpson officiated the ceremony. Adl-Tabatabai and Treadway emerged to loud applause, as well as Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You, Babe.”
“It’s amazing and surreal,” Adl-Tabatabai said. “It did feel like a historic moment.”
“For the first time, the couples getting married won’t just include men and women – but men and men, and women and women,” Cameron said in a statement. “When people’s love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change.”
“What has amazed me is how much of Britain, how quickly, has moved toward backing us on this,” said columnist and former Conservative lawmaker Matthew Parris.
Britain exempted religious groups from conducting same-sex weddings, unless a group chose to opt in. While Quakers and Liberal Judaism have opted to conduct same-sex weddings, the Church of England, the country’s biggest faith, does not conduct same-sex weddings.
“These weddings will send a powerful signal to every young person growing up to be lesbian, gay or bisexual – you can be who you are and love who you love, regardless of your sexual orientation,” said Ruth Hunt, acting Chief Executive for leading gay rights charity Stonewall.
Scottish law will begin recognizing same-sex marriages in October 2014.
For further information, please see:
Aljazeera – UK Holds First Gay Marriage Ceremonies – March 29, 2014
BBC News – Swansea and Caerphilly Couples among First in UK to Have Same-Sex Weddings – March 29, 2014
Irish Times – First Gay Couples Marry in UK at Stroke of Midnight – March 29, 2014
TIMES – First Couples Wed as Gay Marriage Becomes Legal in UK – March 29, 2014