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Married U.K. Gays Can Create Custom Coats of Arms

Married U.K. Gays Can Create Custom Coats of Arms


A medieval English tradition is getting a modern update to include same-sex couples.

For the first time in British history, married same-sex couples can create a new coat of arms that combines imagery from the family coats of arms of both spouses, reports London's Guardian.

The College of Arms -- the agency overseeing such heraldry since 1484 -- updated its rules to allow same-sex couples to "combine both partners' existing coats of arms or create their own" after the marriage equality law for England and Wales took effect March 29, according to the Guardian.

Used among aristocracy to denote family linage since the 15th century, a coat of arms is a uniquely designed shield -- a sort of logo -- that generally includes the family name, a motto, and an ornate crest surrounding imagery placed on the shield, also known as an escutcheon, that speaks to the family's heritage or the individual's profession or background. Coats of arms are traditionally granted to members of the aristocracy and passed down through a family's bloodline, but the Guardian notes that arms can also be granted to commoners who petition the College of Arms.

In addition to removing an outdated provision that required a woman to adopt her husband's coat of arms, the college ruled that a man "may impale the arms of his husband with his own on a shield or banner." Likewise, a woman "may bear arms on a shield or banner, impaling the arms of her wife with her own," according to the Associated Press.

Although the changes mark the first time the college rules have officially acknowledged same-sex couples, the Guardian notes that in 2011, John Bercow, speaker of the House of Commons, created his own crest featuring a rainbow banner, pink triangles, and the motto "All Are Equal" (pictured above).

The marriage equality law for England and Wales was approved by Queen Elizabeth II last July, after it received overwhelming support in both houses of Parliament, and the first marriages under the law took place just after midnight March 29. Scotland passed a similar law in February, with marriages scheduled to begin in October. The fourth component of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, last month rejected a marriage equality proposal for the third time.

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