Last November, without much fanfare, the UK was added to the list of countries granting legal recognition to gay and lesbian couples; according to the government's website, there are nine EU member states (out of 25) with civil partnership legislation, though same-sex marriage is legal only in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Even yobbo tabloid The Sun is refraining from snarkiness in reporting that Rev. Debbie Gaston and her partner of 16 years, Elaine Cook, will be among the first same-sex couples to be joined under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 when it comes into effect in December.
I found The Sun's choice of language instructive. Although I think the symbolic importance of denying gays and lesbians the word "marriage" is a serious issue, I also think that civil unions will almost inevitably lead to increased social acceptance of gay and lesbian couples, which will in turn lead to legalization of same-sex marriage. Watching The Sun dance with the language only emphasized that point to me. In the lede and in the next paragraph, the newspaper chooses the legally vague phrase "tie the knot." But by the third paragraph, Gaston "will marry" Cook, and we're told later that "[l]ike other civil marriages, the ceremony will take place at the register office at the city’s town hall." (If it's good enough for the Prince of Wales....)