Town church hosts first gay ceremony

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A Belper gay couple are among the first in the UK to hold a civil partnership ceremony in a church building.

Helen James and Alison Scrowston made a commitment to each at Belper Unitarian Chapel, in the first ceremony of its kind ever to be conducted in Derbyshire.

The happy occasion was made possible after the chapel became the proud holder of the very first licence in Derbyshire permitting civil partnerships in a place of worship.

The ceremony was led by an official Derbyshire Registrar and was followed by a blessing led by Christina Smith, a lay leader in the Belper congregation.

After the formalities were over a procession made its way from the chapel, on Field Row off Green Lane, through Belper’s streets to the home of the couple, led by a live jazz band.

Christina Smith. who was recently appointed worship leader of Derby Unitarians. said: “We are delighted that Alison and Helen chose our chapel for their special day and Belper Unitarians join in wishing them many years of happiness.”

The first place of worship to be registered for civil partnership ceremonies was Cross Street Chapel in Manchester in March2012, although the first ceremony actually conducted was at Ullet Road Chapel in Liverpool in June 2012. Both of these are also Unitarian chapels.

Unitarians have a long history of involvement incampaigns for civil and religious liberty and have recently been strongly supportive of the move for full marriage equality.

The first same-sex marriages are expected to be held across the country next summer. The Government’s controversial legislation on the issue received Royal Assent and became law last month.