LONDON -- Queen Elizabeth II gave final approval Wednesday to Britain’s controversial same-sex marriage bill, bestowing her royal assent as is common to all new laws.
The measure passed its final legislative hurdle on Tuesday when the House of Commons approved the bill allowing same-sex couples to marry in religious and civil ceremonies.
The announcement in the House of Commons of the queen's action prompted cheers from lawmakers.
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.
Under the new legislation, religious clerics of any denomination must "opt in" to offer religious weddings to same-sex couples. The Church of England is banned by law from celebrating such marriages, and several denominations still remain opposed to the idea, while others such as Quakers and liberal Jewish congregations are in favor.