To be technically correct, the Queen did not approve Equal Marriage

7:33 pm - July 17th 2013

by Robert Sharp    

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The #EqualMarriage timeline on Twitter is full of people praising Queen Elizabeth II for approving the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. There is a strong sense of knowing irony steaming off those messages.

I feel that most of the people celebrating the new law think its rather ridiculous that the approval of the Monarch is still required.

What a relief, then, to learn that actually, Queen Elizabeth II did not formally approve the new law.

‘Royal Assent’ is actually a procedural step in the House of Lords. The monarch is invoked in the process, but she is not personally involved in the decision. From the Wikipedia page:

The granting of the Royal Assent … is simply La Reyne le veult (the Queen wills it)

This matters, because we should recognise that this pro-family reform of the law is the work of Parliament and Democracy. It is not a gift to us from the Establishment.

It is not that ‘La Reyne’ or ‘Le Roy’ wills it… but that the people of the United Kingdom have willed it. That’s important.

Benjamin Cohen, a long-term campaigner for the reform, has the right formulation:

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About the author
Robert Sharp designed the Liberal Conspiracy site. He is Head of Campaigns at English PEN, a blogger, and a founder of digital design company Fifty Nine Productions. For more of this sort of thing, visit Rob's eponymous blog or follow him on Twitter @robertsharp59. All posts here are written in a personal capacity, obviously.
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Reader comments

So aside from symbolism, is there any point in getting rid of Brenda?

2. Nicholas Aleksander

Actually, the process of granting Royal Assent is now very boring and is governed by Royal Assent Act 1967. Royal Assent marks the point where a bill becomes an Act – and so becomes law. The monarch (or commissioners appointed for this purpose) sign a formal document (letters patent) confirming assent. The Speakers of the House of Lords and of the House of Commons then both announce the fact of the assent to their respective chambers. The bill becomes an Act once both announcements have been made.

Charlieman is right – HMQ’s role is almost entirely ceremonial, and although I am nominally a republican, there are other more important things to get right with the world than abolish Brenda. But she has one residual and important role – which would be to choose a prime minister if there were no clear candidate who could command a majority in the Commons.

Of course, the other, less abstract reason she didn’t approve “equal marriage” is that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill does not provide for equal marriage.

What is the point of this article other than to seek to suggest that the Queen may not in fact approve of equal marriage.

I think the average person is quite aware that the royal assent to bill is a formality and that this law has come about through Parliament.

Queen Anne was the last of Britain’s monarchs to refuse assent to an Act of Parliament in 1707.

Thanks for the comments folks.

No, I was not, as Paul @ 4 asserts, trying make a conjecture about what Her Majesty really thinks. Don’t read between the lines. The bee in my bonnett is precisely what I wrote in paragraph 5 of the OP: This is the work of Democracy, not Monarchy, and all the applause of the Queen yesterday somewhat obscures that.

Nicholas @ 2 – Yes, the role of the Queen herself is entirely ceremonial. But the power of ‘The Crown’ is not, and it is weilded by Commonwealth Prime Ministers in a way it probably should not be.

Well I suppose it needs saying – well done to the Tories and Libdems for putting the roof onto the gay equality house. Now all we need to see is if what we’ve built lasts.

bma: are you referring to the objections from some trans* campaigners? I’ve been trying, but completely failing, to get my head around why on earth they mean the bill can be interpreted as not bringing in Equal Marriage.

Under the M(SSC) Bill, any two people who are not currently in a marriage or a civil partnership – irrespective of either their birth or their present gender identity – can get married. It’d be a struggle to think of anything more equal.

The objection seems to be to the provision that if you are already married, and you wish to have your legal gender changed, then you will need your spouse’s consent before this legal declaration is issued. If they refuse to grant this consent, you need to divorce them before it can be granted. But seriously, if they refuse to grant this consent, then YOU NEED TO DIVORCE THEM ANYWAY.

john b/8: As I understand it, the issue is that the other partner can then contest the divorce, which can take months to resolve, during which time you can’t get official recognition of your gender.

Previously, because the gender recognition would officially convert the marriage to a non-existent type, it would automatically be annulled (whether or not their spouse wanted that, so it’s not that there aren’t some improvements too)

The correct and obvious solution – requiring no special legislation whatsoever – would have been to require the spouse who no longer wishes to be in the marriage under those terms to initiate a divorce.

By analogy, say I don’t believe in being married to someone with a university degree. If my spouse is then to be awarded one, I should initiate divorce proceedings. The government should not grant me the right to require the university not to award the degree until and unless my spouse finishes successfully divorcing me (which I can contest and spin out for quite some time, if I’m particularly bitter about it).

Cim: I agree that it’s a pointless measure which (like the ban on religious SSM, rather than making it optional by institution) has crept in to appease bigots. But I’m struggling to think of situations when it would actually disadvantage anyone.

The process that leads to legal recognition of changed gender takes a long time and involves hormone treatment and usually surgery (IIRC you have to provide an exceptional reason why you haven’t had surgery if you haven’t).

If your partner is not willing to be in such a relationship, then this will clearly be a marriage-breaking issue years before the consent form is required. Even the most fiercely contested divorce can’t be dragged out to take as long as transition…

cim: As I understand it, at the moment, if a person in a marriage wants to legally transition, they can obtain an “interim gender recognition certificate”, which does nothing more than allow them to get an annulment – they can only get a full GRC once the marriage has ended via annulment or divorce. This option is kept in place by the bill. However, I think it’s more the principle of the so-called “spousal veto” that upsets people. Your legal gender is so fundamental to the way you are treated, and so irrelevant to everyone else, that it seems perverse to give another person any say over it. And the principle of this bill was supposed to be that your gender is no longer relevant to your marital status.

john b: There are several remaining areas of inequality. Some same-sex couples will still not have the same pension rights as opposite-sex couples. Archaic legal concepts like consummation, adultery, and presumption of legitimacy are remaining in place for opposite-sex couples but are not being extended to same-sex couples. The exemptions for religious organisations probably go too far (even state-employed chaplains will be able to refuse to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies, and religious organisations are not allowed to compel their ministers to conduct them) and are a bit one-sided (churches have to specifically opt in to be able to offer same-sex marriages, but it would be against the law to *only* offer same-sex marriages). I suspect that, a few years down the line, when same-sex marriage is not so controversial, there will be another marriage bill to tidy up a lot of these issues.

“Knowing irony”, or do queens rather like the Queen?

Another pointless piece of mean spirited sounding knit-picking from random republicans.

Here’s a hint: NOBODY CARES!

To be technically correct, Parliament is still part of The Establishment.

Sorry do disappoint your liberal sensibilities but the Queen does in fact meet with the PM every Wednesday at 6.30pm to discuss – what? – Well, we don’t know. The meetings are never minuted, the agenda is never published – that information is not for the likes of us.

I’m sure they just discuss last night’s Eastenders, or who they think will win the match on Saturday I suppose?

Except, of course, parliament consults her son whenever a bill could disturb his income or land –

Is to too much of a stretch to think perhaps her maj discusses bills with elected politicians before they even get as far as the Lords, and they are drafted accordingly?

More details on their little soirees from

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