The government of the United Kingdom, currently led by a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, is expected to begin the process of removing the ban on civil marriage for same-sex couples this week. The process begins when the Government Equalities Office officially launches a 12-week public consultation process.

Barred from civil marriage law in the UK, same-sex couples have been relegated to Civil Partnerships, which were instituted in 2004 in the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). In 2010 the Republic of Ireland also instituted Civil Partnerships.

Civil Partnerships were designed to provide same-sex couples with the responsibilities and rights of civil marriage but not the name. In other words, “separate but equal”, like domestic partnerships and civil unions in the United States.

But of course separate is never equal, and Britons from across the political spectrum are calling for true civil equality. In a major speech last fall to his Conservative Party colleagues, Prime Minister David Cameron explained the reasoning behind his support for marriage equality:

Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.

Likewise, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who as head of the Labour government facilitated passage of the Civil Partnerships Act of 2004, “strongly supports the Prime Minister’s proposal” to lift the ban on civil marriage for same-sex couples, according to The Independent. Notably, Mr. Blair converted to Roman Catholicism in 2007.

National equal marriage laws have been passed in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Sweden.