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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May, 2005, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Priest set to wed in gay marriage
Rev Debbie Gaston and her partner Elaine Cook
Rev Gaston has married more than 30 couples in her Brighton church
A gay clergywoman will take part in the UK's first same-sex wedding in Brighton later this year.

The Rev Debbie Gaston, 46, will marry her partner of 16 years Elaine Cook, 53, on 21 December - the first day gay weddings are legal.

Two other couples will marry on the same morning in a joint ceremony at the register office in Brighton Town Hall.

The city's council has been a supporter of gay weddings, which become possible under the new Civil Partnership Act.

The Act comes into force on 5 December, but there is a 15-day period before any ceremonies can take place, making 21 December the first day couples can tie the knot.

'Not completely fulfilled'

Ms Gaston is a priest at the Metropolitan Community Church and her partner Ms Cook has two grown-up children from a previous heterosexual marriage.

Ms Gaston said: "As a vicar I obviously believe whole-heartedly in the concept of marriage and I have married more than 30 couples myself.

"Elaine and I have waited many years to be able to make this kind of commitment to each other and we both see the Civil Partnership Bill as a huge step in the right direction for equality.

"However, we are only part way there - until I can have a legal ceremony in the eyes of God I will not feel completely fulfilled.

"But this opportunity to make history is fantastic and we'll very much enjoy celebrating the experience with our friends and family."

'Making British history'

The other couples, both also from Brighton, who will marry at the same time are Gino Meriano and his partner Mike Ullett, who together run the Pink Weddings Planning Agency, and Roger Lewis, who works for Sussex Police, and his partner Keith Willmott-Goodall.

The ceremony will take place at the town hall in Bartholomew Square, where regular civil marriages in the city are held.

Councillor Simon Burgess said: "The council is very excited about the prospect of making British history.

"We have fully supported the Civil Partnership Bill since the new legislation was first suggested.

"The Bill means we will be able to offer same-sex couples a ceremony that will help provide them with a secure future in a loving relationship."

Brighton and Hove launched a Pink Wedding Waiting List last July when more than 260 gay and lesbian couples signed up their intention to be wed when the law changed.

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