The Timeline: Gay marriage

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1971

The Nullity of Marriage Act is passed in the United Kingdom, which effectively bans marriage between same-sex couples in England and Wales. In 1973 it is replaced by the Matrimonial Causes Act, which says that a marriage is void if the parties are not male and female. It remains in force to this day.

1988

Section 28 is passed by the Conservative government, which includes a provision prohibiting "the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship". In 2003 it is repealed and in 2009 David Cameron formally apologises for his party introducing the law.

2001

The Netherlands becomes the first country to legalise same-sex marriage after the marriage bill is passed in the House of Representatives the previous year. On the first day of the new law, 1 April, four couples are married by the mayor of Amsterdam, who became a registrar specifically to officiate the weddings.

2005

Civil partnerships are made legal in the UK after the passing of the Civil Partnership Act 2004. Now same-sex couples are granted the same property rights, exemption on inheritance tax, social security and pension benefits as married couples. The first civil partnership takes place on 5 December. In February 2011 the Government expressed its intention to allow civil partnerships to take place in religious venues and it is expected that soon civil marriage will be recognised in the UK.

2008

US gay rights campaigners are dealt a huge blow when Proposition 8, an amendment to the Constitution which provides that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognised", is passed in California. Proposition 8 overturns the California Supreme Court's ruling that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

2011

New York becomes the largest state in the US to legalise same-sex marriage. The New York State Senator Mark Grisanti apologises for earlier opposing same-sex marriage. Just five states in the US currently allow same-sex marriage but it is thought the events in New York will provide the gay rights movement with a new momentum.

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