England's first gay marriage date set for March 2014

The first gay weddings can officially take place in England and Wales from March 29, 2014. British equalities minister Maria Miller announced that same sex couples wishing to be among the first to marry will need to give formal notice of their intention to wed on March 13.

The announcement comes after the government's controversial Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act on same sex marriages received Queen Elizabeth II's Royal Assent in July. Leaders of all three main parties - the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat - had all backed the proposals.

"Marriage is one of our most important institutions, and from 29 March 2014 it will be open to everyone, irrespective of whether they fall in love with someone of the same sex or opposite sex," Miller said on Tuesday.

"This is just another step in the evolution of marriage and I know that many couples up and down the country will be hugely excited that they can now plan for their big day and demonstrate their love and commitment to each other by getting married," she added.

Couples who wanted to convert civil partnerships into marriages and married people wanting to change their legal gender while remaining married are expected to be able to do so before the end of next year.

From June, people will also be able to take part in same sex weddings in some British consulates and armed forces bases overseas or in military chapels.

Under the terms of the bill, religious organisations will have to "opt in" to offering weddings, with the Church of England and Church in Wales being banned in law from doing so.

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