Parliament to host its first civil partnership ceremony

A gay MP is planning to stage the first civil partnership ceremony within the Westminster Palace estate.

Chris Bryant, Minister for Europe and Labour MP for The Rhondda, intends to enter into a civil partnership in March next year and said: “We’d like to do it in Parliament if possible.”

There is a 14th Century chapel within Parliament’s grounds where MPs, peers and their families are allowed to get married.

However, religious venues cannot be used for civil partnership registrations, so Mr Bryant would have to use an alternative venue.

The House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, is already pursuing a licence so that his official residence, Speaker’s House, can officially host civil partnership ceremonies.

His spokesman said: “The Speaker is very keen on the idea of holding civil partnership ceremonies at Westminster and he would be very happy for the Speaker’s house to be used.”

Last month Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for gay couples to be allowed to have civil partnership ceremonies inside Parliament.

He said: “Just as marriages can take place in the House, we hope Mr Speaker will consider that civil ceremonies could take place here.”

He made the comments at the Speaker’s Conference where MPs were discussing how Parliament could attract more minority groups into Westminster.

Mr Brown also said that Labour would “increase support for LGBT candidates” at the next general election.

His comments were praised by ‘gay rights’ groups.

Richard Angell, of LGBT Labour, told a gay news website: “Gordon Brown is right to ask parliament to open itself up to civil partnerships – it is right that parliament changes with the times.”

In July Mr Bryant, a former Anglican curate himself, called on the Church of England to allow same-sex civil partnerships to be celebrated in churches.

Both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church allow only marriages to be conducted by clergy, but Mr Bryant said they should be “much more open” to treating civil partnerships like marriage.

He told Time Out magazine: “All my friends who have entered into a civil partnership refer to it as their ‘marriage’ or their ‘wedding’ so the most important issue is that nobody should be discriminated against because of their sexuality.”

A spokesman for the Church of England said it has always been clear that “marriage is the lifelong union between a man and a woman, and that is what the liturgy of the C of E Marriage Service is exclusively intended for.”

The Rt Revd Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, said: “Of course all citizens must have equal rights without discrimination. But marriage is the basis of the family, and the stability of the family is grounded in the sameness in difference between men and women.

“Those who make public law have to realise that people of faith have consciences that need to be respected.”

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