The United Kingdom has legalized same-sex or gay marriges in a historic move. At the stroke of midnight on March 29, hundeds of gay couples took the marital vows, culminating a campaign to end the discrimination against gay couples. Earlier, gay couples had been allowed to enter "civil partnerships" in 2005, giving them the same legal rights as marriage, but the campaigners wanted something like a "normal mariaage".
In England and Wales, homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967, thereby triggering many reforms to accord equal rights to gays. The passage of the law in July last year had caused deep rifts within PM David Cameron's ruling Conservative Party, with many opposing the same-sex marriages as they contradict their Christian beliefs. But Cameron, personally, has always supported gay marriages. The Church of England has struggled to evolve a consensus over homosexuality as it seeks to tackle rising secularism and falling church attendance. In its new guidelines, it has barred the priests from conducting gay weddings or giving blessings for same-sex marriages. Only an informal blessing is allowed.
Several businesses have lent their support for the landmark event. Ben & Jerry's, an ice-cream brand, came out with its marriage equality flavour "apple-y ever after" in a London gay club on while menswear retailer Moss Bros has launched a campaign featuring a same-sex couple.
While the number of countries legalising gay marriage has grown ever since the Netherlands took the first move in 2000, only 17 of them allow gay couples to marry. France had legalised it last year in the face of street protests in Paris. Scotland is the latest to pass the same-sex marriage law despite strong opposition by the Scottish Catholic Church and the Presbyterian Church.
Interestingly, some countries have been clamping down on gay rights e.g. Uganda, which got global flak in December for passing a controversial law making homosexual acts punishable with life in jail. Currently, homosexuality is illegal in 37 African countries.