A market town could be the first local authority in the north-east of England to allow same sex “weddings”. Councillors in Darlington, County Durham, are being asked to agree to so-called commitment ceremonies for same sex couples. Under current regulations same-sex couples are not allowed to marry in the UK. Church leaders have criticised the move, claiming an alternative to marriage
is damaging to society.
Darlington Borough Council is considering whether ceremonies, which allow gay couples to make a public declaration of their love, can be held in the town. Stephen Harker, who is in charge of public protection at the council, said: “We have had calls from the public asking whether this is a service we can offer. “We have picked up on the fact that this is an issue and something the community wants.
“These people can’t get married and there is currently no ceremony they can go through to publicly express their commitment and love for each other.”
The Reverend David Holloway, Church of England vicar of Jesmond parish church in Newcastle, said: “Based on the Christian faith, any alternative to marriage is damaging to society. “Same sex relationships are not right. They are bad for any children involved in the relationship.” But Barry Birch, a community worker for Gay Advice Darlington, said: “Obviously we welcome the moves by Darlington Council. “This kind of ceremony is likely to become the norm under a government White Paper, which will ask all councils to provide similar services.”