Britain on Wednesday legalized same-sex marriages in England and Wales after Queen Elizabeth II gave final approval, bestowing her royal assent as is common to all new laws.
Lawmakers cheered as House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said royal assent had been given — one day after the bill cleared Parliament.
“This is a historic moment that will resonate in many people’s lives,” 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.”
The queen's approval was a formality and is the last step necessary for a bill to become law.
Previously, gay and lesbian couples could enter into "civil partnerships" in Britain that carry almost the same rights as marriage. About 50,000 partnerships have been registered since 2005.
The new law enables gay couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies in England and Wales, although the Church of England— which is opposed — to sidestep the controversy since it is explicitly barred from conducting same-sex marriages.
Under the new legislation, couples who had previously entered into "civil partnerships" will be able to convert their relationships to marriage.
The British government introduced the bill in January, it has caused division among lawmakers, especially within the ruling Conservative party.
Prime Minister David Cameron had backed it, but it divided his Conservative Party and touched off strident debates in the House of Commons and House of Lords.