Sixteen days from today, England will allow its first gay marriages to take place. I remember reading in Austen novels about people going to Gretna Green, just over the border in Scotland, and soon realized it was a euphemism for eloping, about like "running off to Vegas. " I don't remember the details, but I learned that Scotland had different marriages laws than England--the bride could be younger, for one thing, and there might not have been this "cooling off" period England requires now.
Couples in England who want to marry as soon as the new law kicks in need to register today, so that they will have waited out a mandatory 15-day opportunity reflect on the question of "Do I REALLY want to vow publicly to live out the rest of my life with this person I've just spent six months planning a wedding with?"
The legalization is having all kinds of ramifications, and I don't mean that it's making right-wing religious wackos emerge from the comfort of their living rooms with pitchforks and picket signs in hand. No, retailers are stepping up to embrace the change, because it's "expected to generate a multimillion-pound economy in wedding ceremonies, receptions and gifts, with businesses keen to cash in on the market."
There are news stories about this all over the web, including this one from The Independent and this one from 365gay.com.
Many stories mention the responses of various churches to the event:
Some religions are getting involved, with the Liberal Judaism sect the first to offer a liturgy for partnership ceremonies, while the Methodist church is currently conducting a review of ways in which it could offer blessing services for same-sex couples.
The Church of England has ruled that clergy should not hold official blessing services for couples, but can pray for them.
That's a funky response from a religion whose beginning was all wrapped up in one man's desire to change marriage laws. It's about like the Mormon church's defense of traditional marriage even though its doctrines claim that polygamy is an unchangeable law of God humanity must submit to if it wants to be redeemed.
This story from Reuter's claims that the union is not a marriage, because "Civil partnership is formed when a couple sign certain documents in an exclusively civil procedure, whereas a marriage becomes binding when partners exchange spoken words in a civil or religious ceremony." All the other stories I've read refer to what gay couples will achieve on December 21 as "marriage."
But the Reuter's article also mentions that "The Church of England has provoked fury among Anglican traditionalists by allowing gay priests to register under the new civil partnership law as long as they remain celibate." You can get married, but can't sleep with your partner? Whatever.