ImageVaultHandler.aspxThe UK House of Lords has approved a government bill to legalise same-sex marriage in England and Wales. Members of the Upper House voted by a majority of more than two to one to back the bill, following two days of debate on the issue.

A last-ditch attempt to derail the passage of the bill was rejected by 390 votes to 148. If the bill is passed into law, religious institutions will be required to “opt in” to offering same-sex weddings, with the exception of the Church of England, which will be banned from doing so.

Speaking after the result was announced, the gay Labor peer Lord Alli commended the prime minister, David Cameron, for his “huge amount of personal courage” in pushing the bill through. The chief executive of Stonewall, Ben Summerskill, also expressed his delight, telling the BBC that “Britain’s 3.7 million gay people don’t deserve to be second-class citizens in their own country. A tough fight lies ahead and we’ll continue to work tirelessly every single day to get equal marriage through the Lords.”

The government hopes to pass the bill into law by July 2014. Scotland’s parliament is expected to follow suit with its own bill in a matter of weeks.

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