By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com July 18 2013 7:15 PM ET
With Queen Elizabeth II's signature on Wednesday, Britain and Wales established marriage equality, making the U.K. the 15th nation to fully embrace the freedom to marry.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act received overwhelming support in both houses of Parliament, and with the queen's signature — a process known as Royal Assent — LGBT Britons can begin marrying in January.
Prime Minister David Cameron initially proposed the legislation — to the chagrin of some members of his own ruling Conservative party.
"I am proud that we have made same-sex marriage happen," wrote Cameron in an op-ed in the London Evening Standard on Thursday. "Making marriage available to everyone says so much about the society that we are and the society that we want to live in — one which respects individuals regardless of their sexuality…. For this reason too, I am pleased that we have had the courage to change."
The U.K. branch of LGBT activist organization Stonewall also heralded the news. When Royal Assent was given on Wednesday, the organization sent out a graphic featuring an outline of the Queen's head and the words "Thank you, Ma'am."
"This is an historic moment for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, their families and their friends," said Stonewall in its initial celebratory statement Wednesday. "This Act will mean that, for the first time, children growing up to be gay in England and Wales will have full equality in law. We can now proudly claim to be a beacon to the world for gay equality."
"This is a historic moment that will resonate in many people’s lives," British Equalities Minister Maria Miller said in a statement. "I am proud that we have made it happen and I look forward to the first same sex wedding by next summer."
Despite the historic implications, the United Kingdom passed marriage equality with relatively little fanfare and even less controversy, notes the Associated Press. Even the religious opposition wasn't particularly vocal.
"The opposition seemed restricted to a very small number of people very vigorous in their views,” Steven Fielding, a political scientist at the University of Nottingham told the AP. "It was restricted to the back benchers of the Conservative Party. It wasn’t shared across the political spectrum. It was an issue whose time had come. To oppose it seemed slightly strange."
What might be even more strange, the AP notes, was how smoothly stereotypically stodgy Britain passed essentially the same law as famously "free-wheeling" France, where the legislation's passage was marked by violent antigay protests, including one right-wing activist who shot himself inside Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral in protest of the law.