England and Wales announce date same-sex couples can begin marrying

Today, the British government in Westminster announced the date that same-sex couples will be able to marry in England and Wales. On March 29, 2014, same-sex couples will be permitted to marry in both countries. 

Same-sex couples already in "civil partnerships," which extend some of the protections of marriage to different-sex couples but none of the dignity and equality of marriage, will be able to convert their partnerships into marriage shortly after. 

Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of the British LGBT advocacy group Stonewall UK, applauded the decision today. He said:

We’re particularly pleased that, following pressure from Stonewall, ministers have been persuaded to bring forward the commencement date from summer 2014 as they’d originally proposed.

Earlier this year, the United Kingdom passed a freedom to marry bill, which applies to both countries. In July 2013, the Queen of England granted royal assent, and final approval, to the bill. When the Queen granted this final approval, Freedom to Marry founder and President Evan Wolfson cheered on the victory, contextualizing the win in the international movement to protect same-sex couples and their families. Evan said:

After a rich and extensive months-long debate in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, Britain’s parliament passed a historic freedom to marry bill, introduced by a conservative prime minister and drawing support from across the spectrum. ... With the Supreme Court’s powerful ruling on federal respect for marriages nationwide, Freedom to Marry has laid out the roadmap of work needed to ensure that the United States joins these countries on the right side of history.

When the freedom to marry takes effect in England and Wales, 16 countries will have the freedom to marry for same-sex couples nationwide: The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark, Brazil, France, New Zealand, and Britain. Two others have taken regional steps to allow same-sex couples to share in the freedom to marry in parts of the country: Mexico and the United States. 

Learn all about the freedom to marry internationally HERE.