History made as Yorkshire gay couple tie the knot

Special day for same-sex partners Andrew Vine SIR Elton John might have drawn the crowds to Windsor, but it was a Yorkshire couple who made history yesterday at the country's first gay "wedding".

Life and business partners Terry George and Michael Rothwell tied the knot by registering the first civil partnership in England on the stroke of 8am at a bar they own in the centre of Leeds after being granted a special licence for the ceremony.

And afterwards, the white-clad couple held a celebration that was truly pink by posing in a giant stiletto-heeled shoe as Moulin Rouge-style dancers capered around them.

It was a flamboyant start to a day in which gay couples celebrated being granted the same legal rights as married couples at joyful "wedding" ceremonies around the country.

In Brighton, the unofficial gay capital of Britain, deputy equality minister and Sheffield Heeley MP Meg Munn looked on as three couples tied the knot simultaneously, and in Newcastle, the controversial former Bishop of Durham David Jenkins – an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds – attended a service of "thanksgiving" after a gay vicar flouted Church of England rules to enter into partnership with his long-term companion.

The most high-profile event of the day was in Windsor, where Sir Elton John "married" his partner of 12 years, David Furnish, at the same register office where Prince Charles married Camilla Parker-Bowles earlier this year. Crowds had gathered outside to greet the couple as they emerged to wave to onlookers before heading off to a private lunch which was followed last night by a star-studded party for 700 guests.

In another showbusiness ceremony, celebrated actor Sir Antony Sher and his long-term partner, Greg Doran, signed the register in Islington, London.

But it was Mr George, 40, and Mr Rothwell, 38, who led the way after being partners for more than 16 years. Their bar, Fibre, was granted a special licence by Leeds City Council for the early-morning ceremony.

They had planned to arrive at the ceremony riding an elephant, but failed to find one in time, so settled for a horse-drawn carriage to be greeted by 200 guests and performers including dancing girls, musclemen and midgets,

They were at the register ready to sign at 7.59am. As the clock struck eight, they did so, becoming the first of almost 700 couples to enter into official partnerships across the country.

Afterwards, Mr George said: "This is such an amazing feeling. We really wanted to make history and become the first gay couple in the country to marry as it is such an important day in history.

"It is a day that is long overdue and one that will hopefully change a few people's opinions. But it is not just an important day for Michael and I, it is incredibly important for people all over the world.

"There are people in some countries that are still being persecuted for being gay and it is important that we send out a message saying this is not right."

Mr Rothwell added: "Michael and I have been together for 16 years now and are just like any other couple, whether gay or straight and it is only right that we are allowed the same rights.

"It's such a big day for us and thousands of other gay couples around the country. It's also important for all our friends and family to join us in this special day and witness us coming together officially."

In Windsor, Sir Elton and Mr Furnish signed the register at the Guildhall in a low-key ceremony witnessed by only a handful of close friends, including artist Sam Taylor-Wood who said: "They kissed at the end. It was very, very happy. It was just like any other couple getting married."

Sir Elton's mother Sheila and stepfather Fred, and Mr Furnish's parents Gladys and Jack, who flew in from their native Canada, were also there. Jack Furnish described it as "one of the happiest days of my life" and a beaming Gladys said: "I'm very proud."

The happy couple emerged from the Guildhall arm-in-arm after the 20-minute ceremony. Instead of their usual colourful attire, they wore sober black morning suits - Sir Elton's one flamboyant touch was a diamond brooch on his lapel.

The pop star greeted the crowds of well-wishers with a regal wave.

He thanked them for their support and blew kisses, telling them: "I love you."

In Newcastle, the Rev Christopher Wardale, from Darlington, entered into partnership with retired lecturer Malcolm Macourt, against official Anglican guidelines. Later, the couple attended a service which they said was a "Eucharist of thanksgiving for friendship and commitment", and not a blessing.

andrew.vine@ypn.co.uk

Comment: Page 10.

Life and business partners Terry George and Michael Rothwell tied the knot by registering the first civil partnership in England on the stroke of 8am at a bar they own in the centre of Leeds after being granted a special licence for the ceremony.

And afterwards, the white-clad couple held a celebration that was truly pink by posing in a giant stiletto-heeled shoe as Moulin Rouge-style dancers capered around them.

It was a flamboyant start to a day in which gay couples celebrated being granted the same legal rights as married couples at joyful "wedding" ceremonies around the country.

In Brighton, the unofficial gay capital of Britain, deputy equality minister and Sheffield Heeley MP Meg Munn looked on as three couples tied the knot simultaneously, and in Newcastle, the controversial former Bishop of Durham David Jenkins – an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds – attended a service of "thanksgiving" after a gay vicar flouted Church of England rules to enter into partnership with his long-term companion.

The most high-profile event of the day was in Windsor, where Sir Elton John "married" his partner of 12 years, David Furnish, at the same register office where Prince Charles married Camilla Parker-Bowles earlier this year. Crowds had gathered outside to greet the couple as they emerged to wave to onlookers before heading off to a private lunch which was followed last night by a star-studded party for 700 guests.

In another showbusiness ceremony, celebrated actor Sir Antony Sher and his long-term partner, Greg Doran, signed the register in Islington, London.

But it was Mr George, 40, and Mr Rothwell, 38, who led the way after being partners for more than 16 years. Their bar, Fibre, was granted a special licence by Leeds City Council for the early-morning ceremony.

They had planned to arrive at the ceremony riding an elephant, but failed to find one in time, so settled for a horse-drawn carriage to be greeted by 200 guests and performers including dancing girls, musclemen and midgets,

They were at the register ready to sign at 7.59am. As the clock struck eight, they did so, becoming the first of almost 700 couples to enter into official partnerships across the country.

Afterwards, Mr George said: "This is such an amazing feeling. We really wanted to make history and become the first gay couple in the country to marry as it is such an important day in history.

"It is a day that is long overdue and one that will hopefully change a few people's opinions. But it is not just an important day for Michael and I, it is incredibly important for people all over the world.

"There are people in some countries that are still being persecuted for being gay and it is important that we send out a message saying this is not right."

Mr Rothwell added: "Michael and I have been together for 16 years now and are just like any other couple, whether gay or straight and it is only right that we are allowed the same rights.

"It's such a big day for us and thousands of other gay couples around the country. It's also important for all our friends and family to join us in this special day and witness us coming together officially."

In Windsor, Sir Elton and Mr Furnish signed the register at the Guildhall in a low-key ceremony witnessed by only a handful of close friends, including artist Sam Taylor-Wood who said: "They kissed at the end. It was very, very happy. It was just like any other couple getting married."

Sir Elton's mother Sheila and stepfather Fred, and Mr Furnish's parents Gladys and Jack, who flew in from their native Canada, were also there. Jack Furnish described it as "one of the happiest days of my life" and a beaming Gladys said: "I'm very proud."

The happy couple emerged from the Guildhall arm-in-arm after the 20-minute ceremony. Instead of their usual colourful attire, they wore sober black morning suits - Sir Elton's one flamboyant touch was a diamond brooch on his lapel.

The pop star greeted the crowds of well-wishers with a regal wave.

He thanked them for their support and blew kisses, telling them: "I love you."

In Newcastle, the Rev Christopher Wardale, from Darlington, entered into partnership with retired lecturer Malcolm Macourt, against official Anglican guidelines. Later, the couple attended a service which they said was a "Eucharist of thanksgiving for friendship and commitment", and not a blessing.

andrew.vine@ypn.co.uk