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Queen signs final approval of UK same-sex marriage bill

Photo: AFP

Queen Elizabeth II gave her royal approval to Britain’s same-sex marriage bill on Wednesday, granting gay couples the right to marry in England and Wales starting in 2014. The bill has caused controversy among Conservative lawmakers.

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Queen Elizabeth II gave her royal stamp of approval on Wednesday to a bill, passed the previous day by British lawmakers, legalising same-sex marriage in England and Wales and paving the way for the first gay weddings in 2014.

MPs decided not to oppose a number of minor amendments to the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill proposed by the upper House of Lords.

Britain has seen none of the mass protests over gay marriage held across the channel in France, which last weekend became the 14th country in the world to legalise it.

Some 54% of Britons are in favour of allowing same-sex couples to marry, according to a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times.

Conservative 'loons'

Controversy over the issue among the Conservative Party has heaped pressure on Prime Minister and party leader David Cameron, who is already facing bitter opposition from many Tories over his leadership style and a promised referendum on Britain's EU membership.

The prime minister was forced to send a mass email to Conservative activists after an unnamed ally was reported to have called them "mad, swivel-eyed loons".

"I am proud of what you do. And I would never have around me those who sneered or thought otherwise," he wrote.

The "loons" comment fuelled accusations that Cameron is out of touch with traditional Tories and that the prime minister surrounds himself with people from his own privileged background.

Party co-chairman Lord Andrew Feldman, who strongly denies rumours he was behind the comment, was a schoolmate of Cameron's at the elite Eton College.

Far-right fears

Many Conservative supporters fear that with a general election two years away, Cameron's backing for gay marriage is driving traditional Tory voters to the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

The anti-immigration, anti-EU party is a fast-rising force in British politics and made strong gains in local elections last month.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said Tuesday he would not expel members for voicing "old-fashioned" views about homosexuality, after reports that one of the party's candidates branded gay sex "disgusting" on an online forum.

A new poll suggested that support for the Conservatives has slumped to 24% – just two % ahead of UKIP – although a different poll put the Tories on 31%.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)


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