Queen Elizabeth II today put her John Hancock on what the Telegraph describes as "one of the most radical pieces of social legislation of her reign": a bill making gay marriage legal throughout England and Wales. The signing was a formality, after the bill cleared its final hurdle in the lower house of the country's parliament yesterday, Reuters reports. The law will allow gay marriages by next summer. A similar law in Scotland is expected to make gay marriage legal there by 2015, but Protestant parties defeated a marriage equality law in Northern Ireland earlier this year.
The English bill had the firm support of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, although Prime Minister David Cameron, who introduced the bill, faced a major backlash from rebellious members of his Conservative Party. "The title of this bill might be 'Marriage', but its fabric is about freedom and respect," the country's culture secretary said after it passed. "Freedom to marry regardless of sexuality or gender, but also freedom to believe that marriage should be of one man and one woman, and not be marginalized." (Read more gay rights stories.)