Race to tie the knot first for same sex couples

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SAME sex couples in the region are today celebrating their marriages for the first time after a new law allowing them to wed came into force.

As the clock struck midnight, gay and lesbian couples were able to wed in the first ever ceremonies in England and Wales.

Several couples were vying to claim the title of being the first ever to be married in Britain by trying to time it perfectly so their vows were said just seconds after midnight.

Among them were Kyle Emerson, 25, and 28-year-old Richie Wood, of Hillsborough in Sheffield, who were aiming to tie the knot at Sheffield Town Hall just after the clock struck twelve.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act came into force in July last year. But it was not until March 13 this year when couples were able to register their intention to marry under the Act for the first time.

On the same day the law in England and Wales changed to recognise same-sex marriages performed overseas.

Sue Wilkinson, 60, and Celia Kitzinger, 57, married in Canada in 2003 and fought for eight years to have their union recognised in the UK. They took their fight to the High Court in 2006, when a judge refused to make a declaration that their marriage was valid in this country.

But, due to the change in the law, the couple, both university professors who live in Gribthorpe, near Howden in East Yorkshire, became officially married on March 13. The couple yesterday attended an event at the University of York, where Professor Kitzinger works, to mark the commencement Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.

Peter McGraith and David Cabreza, who have been together for 17 years, were due to marry just after midnight at Islington Town Hall in London.

Mr McGraith said: “It is a mark of significant social progress in the UK that the legal distinction between gay and straight relationships has been removed.

“Very few countries afford their gay and lesbian citizens equal marriage rights and we believe that this change in law will bring hope and strength to gay men and lesbians in Nigeria, Uganda, Russia, India and elsewhere, who lack basic equality and are being criminalised for their sexual orientation.”