Marriage surprise for Mary Portas as civic halls open doors to same-sex couples

FASHION entrepreneur Mary Portas surprised her civil partner as they became one of the first couples in the UK to convert their civil partnership to a same-sex marriage. The conversion took place at Westminster City Hall in London at 12.01am, one minute after the law came into effect.

Mary Portas (left) and Melanie Rickey with Westminster Superintendent Registrar Alison Cathcart

Westminster superintendent registrar Alison Cathcart presided over the conversion of Ms Portas and fashion journalist Melanie Rickey’s civil partnership, and said she saw it as the “final step in equality for gay marriage” and Westminster City Hall was “very proud to play our part in it”.

Ms Portas described the occasion as “absolutely magical” and said she had been planning it for about a month.”

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Ms Rickey said: “I thought we were out looking for art galleries but when we started driving up and down the same street a couple of times I started getting a bit suspicious.”

Martin Hayes-Allen and Robert Foreman were the first couple in Sheffield to become Civil Partners

In Sheffield, a Champagne reception was staged for 13 same-sex couples. Sheffield’s first-ever civil partners, Dr Martin Hayes-Allen and Robert Foreman, were also the first to have their civil partnership converted at the Town Hall.

Dr Hayes-Allen said “When Robert was ill, we faced issues with visiting rights, so when the civil partnership law was passed, we were banging on the door to be the first to secure the rights that civil partners have.

“We’re thrilled to be the first, once again, to convert our civil partnership and be a married couple.”

Sheffield registrars Gillian Richards and Yvonne Wood will preside over a further 16 ceremonies this month.