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U.K. partnerships show progress since 2004
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U.K. partnerships show progress since 2004

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Two civil partnership ceremonies celebrated in Britain March 27 show how far the United Kingdom has come since Britain's Civil Partnership Act was passed in 2004.

In one ceremony, Labor Member of Parliament Chris Bryant was united with Jared Cranney in Westminster Palace, the home of Britain's Parliament.

In the other, Lance Corporal James Wharton was united with Thom McCaffrey at the Westminster Registry Office and then returned to his regimental barracks for his wedding reception.

The Civil Partnership Act gives same-sex couples the same public recognition, legal protections, and inheritance rights as opposite-sex married couples.

Bryant, M.P. for the Rhondda district since 2001, met Cranney on the election campaign trail in April last year.

Bryant was formerly a Church of England curate and chaplain, and later the European Affairs bureau chief at BBC.

Opposite-sex weddings have already been held in Parliament's chapel on the Westminster Palace grounds, but as a Church of England venue it would not accommodate same-sex civil partnerships.

Commons Speaker John Bercow personally intervened to get permission from Westminster City Council to hold the ceremony on the Parliament grounds.

In a statement after the ceremony, the couple thanked Bercow for helping to make their "really special day" possible.

Bercow also hosted the reception in the Speaker's House with guests including Labor Party Deputy Leader Harriet Harman. A noted feminist, Harmon is the prime sponsor of Labor's Equality Act, forbidding discrimination on a variety of grounds including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown advocated for allowing same-sex commitment ceremonies on Parliament's grounds last year in testimony to the speaker's conference on diversity at Westminster.

"We never thought this day would come - and never thought we'd have to worry about cakes and flowers and rings," Bryant and Cranney said in their statement. "It's amazing how much things have changed in such a short time.

"Only a few years ago, there was a different Gay age of consent, you could sack people or refuse to serve them just because of their sexuality, and Gays were banned from the military, from adopting, or getting married.

"Parliament is special because it has made it possible. We are delighted that everyone in the U.K. can now share in a privilege that used to be available just to straight M.Ps."

Meanwhile, a few blocks to the west at the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment's barracks in Knightsbridge, LCpl James Wharton was celebrating his union with Thom McCaffrey.

Guests included all the regimental officers and the families of the couple. The curry lunch was personally overseen by the regimental master chef.

Wharton wore his ceremonial dress uniform with Iraq service medal, and McCaffrey wore formal morning dress with an orchid.

The two met several years ago in their hometown in Wales, but only decided to make it official during a holiday in New York.

"We just clicked when we met. We laugh a lot together," said McCaffrey. "It is really quite strange. I went to the regiment's Christmas ball and we were the first Gay couple to go there and everyone was really nice. I would have thought they would have been more old-fashioned but they have been brilliant."

"The lads joked it was the Gay event of the year. Everyone was excited. It was the talk of the barracks. This generation of soldiers is completely liberal," Wharton said of the reception.

"The Household Cavalry has a fine tradition of leading from the front, so it is unsurprising that we continue to represent the face of the modern Army," said regimental commanding officer, Lt-Col Crispin Lockhart MBE. "We recognize and value individuals from diverse backgrounds who bring fresh ideas, knowledge, experience, and talent to the regimental family."

"This is our first Gay wedding," explained Wharton's stepfather Philip Ellis. "We come from north Wales and some people are still old-fashioned."

After a honeymoon in San Francisco, the young couple will be heading home to their new married quarters, which were renamed Service Family Accommodation when the Civil Partnership Act took effect in 2005.

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