Tying the knot, a year on

CIVIL partnerships are a year old today , and Little Britain star Matt Lucas "tied the knot" with his long-term partner -followed by a fancy dress party - this week .

CIVIL partnerships are a year old today , and Little Britain star Matt Lucas "tied the knot" with his long-term partner -followed by a fancy dress party - this week . Feature writer JAMES MARSTON tracked down a couple who took the plunge.

ELTON and David did it in the most lavish way imaginable.

A guest list which included Ringo Starr and Victoria Beckham, Liz Hurley and Cilla Black, Lulu and Claudia Schiffer were among those who celebrated at Sir Elton John and David Furnish's civil partnership party last December.

Held at the couple's Old Windsor mansion the party was thrown after a half-hour ceremony at Windsor's Guildhall. Several stars were caught up in a celebrity traffic jam as they waited to arrive at the bash.

Since then civil partnerships became legal in December 2005 more than 15,500 civil partnership ceremonies have taken place according to the Office for National Statistics.

The first same-sex couple to marry was Shannon Sickels and Grainne Close in Belfast on December 19 2005.

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Almost 2,000 partnerships took place in December 2005, when the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 came into force. Lesbian soldiers Sonya Gould, 19, and Vanessa Haydock, 18, both privates in the Royal Logistics Corps, were the first gay Army couple to tie the knot. London and the South East staged the most ceremonies in England this year.

Dean Wales and Barry Samain become one of the first couples in Suffolk to contract a Civil Partnership during a ceremony on December 23, 2005.

Barry, 41, a business centre manager in Ipswich, told the Evening Star about the relationship.

He said: “We met in October 1992 at the Spa Pavilion in Felixstowe. Dean was performing in Aux Cages Aux Folles and I went along as a punter. I'd never been to an amateur dramatic production before.

“I looked through the programme and saw Dean's picture. I remember thinking I thought he was cute.”

Barry and Dean got to know each other after the performance.

Barry said: “I didn't know if he was gay or straight really. We met in the October and a few weeks later I took him for a night out in London. We moved in together in Easter 1994.”

Dean, who was 22 at the time, said: “I think it was Barry's sense of fun that attracted me at the beginning. He came with a group of friends and they were up for a laugh which I liked.”

Today, 14, years later, the couple is celebrating a year since they formed a Civil Partnership.

Inviting just two close friends to act as witnesses the couple made their vows in Ipswich on December 23.

Barry said: “We wanted to do it quietly and we didn't want a party. We went out for lunch before hand and turned up with our Christmas shopping. We wanted to do it just for ourselves. The partnership has formalized our relationship.”

Dean, who works as a marketing and communications manager also in Ipswich, said: “All our family and friends were aware we were a couple and we knew we wanted to commit to each other. The civil partnership sort of rubber stamped our relationship.”

Disliking the term “gay marriage,” Barry said the couple, who live in Undercliff Road West, in Felixstowe, did not want a big event surrounding the ceremony.

He added: “It wasn't a pseudo wedding and it is not a marriage. It is a partnership instead.”

But, a year on, has much changed?

Barry said: “Nothing has changed for us really. I suppose in the eyes off our family and friends our relationship is on a more formal footing.”

He joked: “Everyone knows now its not just a “phase” we were going through.”

On advantage of a Civil Partnership, previously denied to same sex couples, is that the relationship enjoys equal treatment in a wide range of legal matters with married couples, including inheritance tax.

Barry said: “This was a big part of what we were doing and it was important for us.”

Dean added: “We have a friend who ended up homeless and with nothing after his partner died. The only difference was they didn't have a Civil Partnership.”

Both men know they have been lucky.

Barry said: “We've had fantastic support from our family, colleagues and friends, our parents are friends with each other and we are very pleased we have our relationship formalised in this way.

“Civil partnerships are a reflection of changing social attitudes and I'm glad they have been introduced though I do think the change in social attitudes should have happened sooner.”

And how is the couple going to mark their first anniversary of civil partnership?

Dean said: “I'm not sure we're really going to mark it with anything really. I'm playing the dame in Mother Goose at the Spa Pavilion, so I'm doing that I suspect.”

Have you contracted a Civil Partnership? Do you think they are a good idea? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk



The first civil partnership ceremonies for same sex couples went ahead in England and Wales on this day last year.

Nearly 700 partnerships have been formed across the country.

A civil partnership can be formed in England and Wales at a register office or an approved premises.

Couples who form a civil partnership will have the legal status, that of 'civil partner'.

Couples must attend a register office within their local authority area, to register their intent to apply for civil partnership registration.

In the first year, more men decided to opt for a civil partnership than women, making up 62pc of partnerships in England, 57pc in Scotland, 56pc in Northern Ireland and 51pc in Wales.

Civil partners have equal treatment in a wide range of legal matters with married couples, including:

tax, including inheritance tax

employment Benefits

most state and occupational pension benefits

income related benefits, tax credits and child support

duty to provide reasonable maintenance for your civil partners and any children of the family

ability to apply for parental responsibility for your civil partner's child

inheritance of a tenancy agreement

recognition under intestacy rules

access to fatal accident compensation

protection from domestic violence

recognition from immigration and nationality purposes

The partnership isn't called 'a marriage' because in this country the term 'marriage' has a legal definition as defined in the Marriage Act 1949. Part of this states that for a marriage to be legal it must be for 'one man' and 'one woman'.

Sir Elton's guest list

Celebrities heading to the lavish "wedding" party thrown by Sir Elton John and David Furnish were caught up in the UK's most glamorous traffic jam on their way to his Windsor mansion.

The 700-strong guest list featured many famous faces. They included:

? Sir Michael Caine

? Ronan Keating

? George Michael

? The Osbournes - Ozzy, Sharon, Jack and Kelly

? Claudia Schiffer

? Sarah, Duchess of York

? Sting