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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 August, 2004, 08:20 GMT 09:20 UK
Gay couples stage mass 'wedding'
Same sex wedding
Currently gay couples have no legal rights
A mass blessing service of lesbian and gay couples - thought to be the biggest ever held in the UK - has taken place in Manchester's Gay Village.

About 70 couples tied the knot at the symbolic ceremony, as part of the Manchester Pride festival.

Gay and lesbian relationships are not currently recognised by UK law.

However, the Civil Partnership Bill, currently going through Parliament, will give gay and lesbian couples legal status for the first time.

Love is not discriminatory
Rev Andy Braunston

When enacted, the bill will give certain financial rights to gay and lesbian couples, in areas including pension rights and tax entitlement.

They will also have next-of-kin visiting rights in hospitals.

At Sunday's ceremony, each couple received a certificate after exchanging vows.

The ceremony, which took place at 1400 BST, was followed by a traditional post-wedding disco called The Wedding Bash.

Manchester City Council was the first council in the UK to provide a civil partnership ceremony service for gay and lesbian couples.

It followed the setting up of a partnership register by Ken Livingstone in London.

Reverend Andy Braunston from the Manchester Metropolitan Community Church officiated at Sunday's ceremony.

"[The ceremony] was a chance to celebrate our love and campaign for the right to marry so that we are treated equally," Mr Braunston said.

"After all, love is not discriminatory."

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