England and Wales Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

What's better than gay couples saying 'I do?' Gay couples saying 'I do' in a British accent, of course.

Queen Elizabeth II gave her Royal Assent Wednesday to a bill that will make marriage a legal right for same-sex couples in England and Wales. Her signature was the last (symbolic) step in turning the bill into law, following the overwhelming approval of the Upper and Lower Houses of the British Parliament earlier this week.

Same-sex couples are expected to be able to tie the knot by sometime next summer.

This development brings the number of countries around the world where same-sex marriage is legal for all citizens to 16. That number does not include the United States, where same-sex marriage is still only an option in 12 states, even after June's two Supreme Court victories in favor of marriage equality.

Gay and lesbian couples in England and Wales gained the right to enter into a civil partnership in 2005, but this new law will allow them to use the same terminology, and participate in the same types of religious ceremonies as heterosexual couples. The anti-gay marriage Churches of England and Wales will still be legally prohibited from conducting these ceremonies, while other religious institutions will be given the choice to opt in or out.