The first same-sex marriages have taken place in the North East after a change in the law made it possible. Wedding businesses are expecting to benefit from extra trade as more same-sex couples tie the knot. Tim Backshall reports
The leader of Newcastle City Council, Cllr Nick Forbes, said it was "fantastic" that gay and lesbian couples can now marry. The change in the law legalising marriage for same-sex couples came into effect in England and Wales at midnight.
A change in the law has given gay and lesbian couples the right to marry for the first time in history, but a campaigner in the North East of England said there was a long way to go to combat social prejudice.
Mark Nichols, the Chair of Northern Pride, said he still would not be comfortable holding hands with his partner in the centre of Newcastle:
A wedding planner is now arranging her own big day, thanks to a change in the law, which came into effect at midnight.
Shadia Thannon (right) manages a hotel in Newcastle, which hosts weddings. She will marry her partner Catherine Martin there in July, becoming one of the first same-sex couples in the North East to marry.
They had been planning a civil partnership, until the change in the law in England and Wales last summer made marriage legal for same-sex couples:
"For us it's really important, it means our relationship is seen equally in the eyes of the law. That's something neither of us really ever expected to happen," Catherine said.
Same sex couples are being invited to an event in Jesmond, Newcastle, to find out how to change civil partnerships into marriages. Same sex marriages become legal in England and Wales tomorrow.
The city council is holding an event at Mansion House.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the legalisation of same-sex marriage was "a great step forward".
"It's a landmark day," he said. "I am so chuffed about this change in the law."
"It's just a simple idea that if two people love each other it doesn't matter that they're the same sex - if they love each other and want to show that commitment towards each other through marriage, they should be able to do so."
Same-sex couples will be able to wed from the stroke of midnight tonight as the new law permitting same-sex marriage comes into force.
As the clock strikes 12, gay couples will be able to wed in the first ever ceremonies in England and Wales.
A number of couples are vying to claim the title of being the first ever to be married in Britain by trying to time it perfectly so their vows are said just seconds after midnight.
The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act came into force in July last year.
The new Archbishop of Canterbury is ready to reveal he believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman, it has emerged.
Ahead of the first parliamentary vote on the reforms, the Rt Rev Justin Welby is prepared to face questions about the highly divisive issue.
Tories have been plunged into deep unrest by the proposals, which David Cameron has personally championed.
The Prime Minister is facing the prospect of some 180 members of his party, including a significant number of senior figures, opposing or abstaining in a vote on the changes on Tuesday. He is expected to attempt to talk to his MPs today in the hope of winning their support, according to The Times.
Bishop Welby is being formally confirmed in his new role at a ceremony in St Paul's Cathedral today.
For more on reports that around 180 Conservative Cabinet members, junior ministers and party enforcers are poised to oppose or abstain in a vote on gay marriage, click here.
The Catholic Bishop of Middlesbrough is calling for MPs to be given a free vote over the government's Equal Marriage Bill.The bill, which would allow couples of the same sex to marry, is published this month.
The Right Reverend Terry Drainey says he feels the legislation is being rushed through and fears its implications.
A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "We have been very clear that our plans for equal marriage will fully protect the freedom of religious bodies to preach, teach and put into practice their beliefs about marriage."