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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 May, 2003, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
City recognises 'gay marriages'
Wedding ring

Gay and lesbian couples in Birmingham are to have the right to publicly declare their partnership.

A civil register is to be set up which will be recognised by Birmingham City Council.

However, the register will not be recognised by the law.

The announcement came from Councillor Steve Bedser, at the start of the Gay Pride Weekend in the city's Victoria Square.

'Purely symbolic'

Councillor Bedser says it is a step towards getting equality with heterosexual couples.

He told BBC WM: "What's been happening up and down the country is that local authorities are using their powers to establish civil parternship registers.

"At this stage they are purely symbolic, there is no legal status behind them.

"But they give the chance for couples willing and wanting to, to come forward and have their relationship recognised."

The announcement has been welcomed by the leader of the Liberal Democrats on the council.

John Hemming said the register would make life easier for gay couples.

"If someone has been living with someone for 15 years there is no way of identifying, for example, visiting rights in hospital," he said.

In September 2001, Alexander Cannell and Ian Burford became the first gay couple in the UK to have their 38-year relationship recognised in such a manner, when they signed the London Partnerships Register.

In Holland, gay and lesbian couples have had the right to marry since April 2001.

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