THE FRENCH like to make fun of the British, joking about their repressed ways in matters of the heart. But when it came time to debate same-sex marriage, it was France that betrayed a deeply conservative streak in sometimes violent protests, while the British showed themselves to be modern and tolerant. With little fanfare or controversy, Britain announced in early July that Queen Elizabeth had signed into law a bill legalizing same-sex marriages in England and Wales. France has also legalized gay marriages, but only after a series of gigantic protests attracting families from the traditional heartland that revealed a deeply split society.
Official word that the Queen had approved the bill drew cheers in the usually sedate House of Commons. “This is a historic moment that will resonate in many people’s lives,” Equalities Minister Maria Miller said in a statement. “I am proud that we have made it happen and I look forward to the first same sex wedding by next summer.”