Gibraltar approves same-sex marriage

Members of the Gibraltar Parliament on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Gibraltar Chronicle reported Equality Minister Samantha Sacramento told lawmakers after she introduced the measure that “marriage is a hugely important institution.” She also stressed the proposal contains what she described as “religious safeguards.”

“This bill will place all couples on the same footing as other couples already married at the registry office, as the proposed amendments to the Marriage Act will provide the same option for all,” said Sacramento, according to the Gibraltar Chronicle.

Equality Rights Group, a Gibraltar advocacy group, in a statement acknowledged concerns remain over the bill’s so-called conscience clause that allows registrars not to officiate same-sex marriages if they violate their religious beliefs. The organization nevertheless celebrated the measure’s passage.

“Today is a happy and long-awaited day for many in Gibraltar,” said Equality Rights Group Chair Felix Alvarez.

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo applauded the bill’s passage.

“It changes the state’s type of marriage in the way that brings equality for everyone into the way that our law views those who wish to marry in our society,” he said in a video posted to YouTube after the vote. “I’m delighted with that.”

Gibraltar is a small British territory on the southern tip of Spain that overlooks the Strait of Gibraltar.

Gays and lesbians are able to legally marry in England, Wales, Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Lawmakers on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel last month approved a same-sex marriage bill, but Queen Elizabeth II has yet to sign it into law through royal assent. Gays and lesbians are unable to legally marry in Northern Ireland.

It remains unclear when Gibraltar’s same-sex marriage law will take effect.