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Last Updated: Monday, 29 August 2005, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Gay couple aim for wedding date
Smyth Harper
BBC News website

Miles Harding (left) and Mike Dunn
Miles and Mike have been together for five years
As the UK prepares to recognise gay partnerships, the BBC News website speaks to a couple who hope to be one of the first to take part in the new civil ceremony.

Mike Dunn always knew he was gay.

But for 16 years of his life he was married to a woman.

The 55-year-old grew up in an era where homosexuality was still illegal, and attitudes were different.

Now, nearly 30 years after gay acts between men were made legal, Mike is hoping to be - with his partner Miles Harding, 40 - one of the first couples to have their partnership legally recognised.

The Birmingham couple were at Manchester's Pride festival, and took part in The Celebration, held over the weekend to mark the advent of the new Civil Partnership Act, which becomes law in December.

I got married because it was the thing to do
Mike Dunn

They were among couples who signed a book to "pre-register" their civil partnership declaration.

"It's about time," Mike says. "When I was growing up there was nothing for gay people, no bars, no clubs, nowhere to go, no community - nowhere you could have a relationship with someone.

"It's amazing to see how times have changed. I've just finished a job with a council where every single person knew I was gay. Thirty years ago, that just couldn't have happened."

Despite knowing he was gay, Mike married when he was in his 20s, as a result of societal pressure. It is something he says he does not regret.

"I got married because it was the thing to do.

Thousands joined in the Manchester Pride celebrations
Manchester's Pride celebrated the new Civil Partnerships Act

"My wife knew I was gay. She had just come out of a six-month marriage where she was beaten by her husband. She knew I could give her love.

"It was a strange relationship because it worked, but we knew there were some things I couldn't offer her, and eventually she met someone else who could, and our marriage ended.

"But I have a 23-year-old daughter and now a grandchild. I have been very, very lucky."

Mike has been with Miles for five years, and is clear about how he views their relationship.

"I have come to where I should've been before and met the guy I should've been with. I know I will be with him until the day I die, so why shouldn't we have the same rights as other couples?"

Currently, gay couples have no legal pension, parental or bereavement rights. The length of a couple's relationship or the fact they may live together is not taken into account by the law.

Pension rights

For several years, gay pride events have been holding ceremonies where couples get "married" in front of witnesses, but this will be the last year ceremonies such as these are legally meaningless.

Mayor of London Ken Livingston introduced a partnership register for gays and lesbians in 2001, and since 2002 Manchester has offered partnership ceremonies conducted by a registrar.

Other councils offer similar services, but these similarly have no legal standing, something the Civil Partnership Act seeks to remedy. There may well be legal gay weddings during next year's gay pride festival season.

"Why shouldn't we have the same rights as anyone else?" says Mike.

"There's a 15-year age gap between us, and I want Miles to be financially secure, and get my pension if I should die before him - it just seems fair. He should get it, not the government.

"This really is something that should have happened years ago."


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