When Prime Minister David Cameron, an erstwhile supporter of Section 28, backed gay marriage at the 2011 Tory party conference, it seemed the reform which began with the Civil Partnership Act 2004 would soon be complete.
By the time the Government’s long-awaited policy consultation was launched, however, the path looked far from clear.
Leading members of the Church of England have publicly voiced disapproval of state intervention in what they consider church matters, while Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic clergyman courted controversy by comparing gay marriage to the injustice of slavery. The issue has also been the source of significant dispute within the Conservative Party itself.
Even the civil marriage legislation does not propose total equality. Same-sex couples in the UK will still be banned from marrying in religious ceremonies on religious premises (regardless of the views of the owner of the premises), and civil partnerships will still be closed to opposite-sex couples.
Citing the example of his late, gay uncle, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has urged the Government to extend its legalisation plans to include religious ceremonies.
£3.7m – Estimated cost of introducing same sex marriage, according to Government figures. Source: Home Office, Equal Civil Marriage: Impact Assesment
53,417 – Number of civil partnerships formed in the UK since legalisation in 2005, up to the end of 2011. Source: Office for National Statistics
509 – Number of civil partnerships dissolutions granted in the UK in 2010. Source: Office for National Statistics
£25,000 – Legal costs paid by same-sex couple Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger, after they lost their battle to have their marriage recognised in Britain. Source: Pink News
How do gay couples divorce? Anne Kay, BBC New Magazine, 2008
David Cameron pre-election interview, Gay Times, 2010
A conservative case for gay marriage, Time Montgomerie, ConservativeHome, 2012
Against gay marriage? Too late, it’s already here, Philip Hensher, The Independent, 2012
1682 – The marriage of Arabella Hunt to James Howard is annulled on the grounds that Howard was in fact a woman called Amy Poulter
1971 – The Nullity of Marriage Act is passed, explicitly banning marriage between same-sex couples in England and Wales
2004 – The Civil Partnership Bill becomes law
2005 – The Civil Partnership Act comes into effect
2010 – Lib Dems become the first major political party to formally endorse same-sex marriage
2012 - US president Barack Obama announces his support for gay marriage