MEMBERS of Hartlepool’s gay community have today applauded legislation which paves the way for the country’s first same-sex marriages.
Legislation to introduce gay weddings was could become law within days which means the first same-sex marriages could be made this time next year.
Joanne Fairless, 44, from Hartlepool’s Hart Gables organisation, which supports lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people in town, said: “I’m not in a civil partnership myself, but this is just great news.
“It’s something that we’ve been campaigning for for a while.
“The subject has created quite a lot of discussion with some people saying it should and some saying it shouldn’t be made law.
“Personally, I think the equality around same-sex marriage is just brilliant.
“It’s such a good step forward.”
She added: “This will just help to break down more barriers in Hartlepool and across the country.
“It’s a change in the right direction defintely.”
Hartlepool Borough Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher is in a civil partnership with his partner Stephen Akers-Belcher, a fellow Labour councillor who is the town’s ceremonial mayor.
He echoed Joanne’s thoughts and described the new same-sex marriage law as a “welcome change”.
“It will make no difference to Stephen and I, but from my point of view I think everybody should be able to exercise choice,” he said.
“I’m a great believer in equality and justice and everybody should be afforded the same opportunities.
“My civil partnership suffices for me, although I’d never say never to getting married to Stephen!
“This is definitely a welcome change and exciting move for any same sex couples wanting to get married.”
Last night MPs debated amendments made to the legislation in the House of Lords and the legislation is set to gain Royal Assent within the next few days.
Previously same-sex couples were only able to show their commitment to each other through a civil partnership.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told campaigners celebrating outside Parliament that the new law would ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people felt “recognised and valued”.