UK gay couples queue for civil partnership ceremonies

July 12, 2004

Keith Willmott-Goodal and partner Roger Lewis
Photo - Het Nieuwsblad
LONDON — Gay couples stood in line for up to two hours Friday to register for Britain's first same-sex weddings.

More than 100 couples who entered their names in a register at Brighton Town Hall in southern England will be the first to marry legally under the Civil Partnerships Bill.

The bill, which is expected to receive the assent of Queen Elizabeth II – largely a formality – later this year, would give gay and lesbian couples who agree a civil partnership the same pension and other rights as married couples for the first time.

Brighton, which has been called Britain's gay capital, is planning to become a major venue for same-sex weddings when the bill gets royal assent, with the first ceremonies expected next year.

Roger Lewis, 55, from Brighton, was the first to sign the book with his partner Keith Willmott-Goodall.

"If couples want to marry then they should be allowed to," Lewis said. "It's not so much the marriage thing, which I think is more important for couples planning to have children, but it is a better way that we can commit to each other in public."

Several other European countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany, already recognize gay unions.

Under the British bill, gay partners would form a civil partnership by signing a register before an official and two witnesses. There would be a formal, court-based process for dissolution of a partnership. – Sapa-AP

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