HISTORY will be made next weekend, when gay and lesbian couples are legally allowed to marry for the first time.
A change in the law, which comes into force on Saturday, means marriages between people of the same sex will have exactly the same legal standing as those between straight couples.
Christian Gilson will be one of the first in the country to take advantage of the change when he marries Steve Hanafin, 46, in Southend.
Until now, gay and lesbian couples could only enter into a civil partnership, giving same sex couples most – but not all – the rights and responsibilities of a civil marriage.
Christian, 43, said: “A good ten years ago, we both agreed should the law ever change, we’d get married. We had both proposed to each other at different times, actually.
“I’ve always said I wanted a marriage. A civil partnership was just not the same thing, because to have one would be identifying you as different, being other. It wasn’t equality.
“It’s really great to be part of history. In the future, we can look back and say we were among the first.”
The couple, who live in Manchester Drive, Leigh, will tie the knot at a small ceremony for close family and friends.
Later that day, Laindon couple Kalie Mills, 26, and Michelle Gilby, 29, will be wed in front of 170 guests at Three Rivers Golf and Country Club, in Cold Norton, near Maldon.
Kalie said: “We were booked to have a civil partnership ceremony that day. We’d been planning it since July 2012.
“It was only a couple of months ago, I heard on the radio about the law change, so we decided to get married. We would’ve been happy with a civil partnership but given the choice, we’d rather have a marriage.
"I don’t really see why we shouldn’t have been allowed to get married before, anyway.”
Michelle added: “The civil partnership didn’t feel very loving.
“Obviously with it, you’re making a commitment to each other, but something was missing.
"It was more like a legal contract, which came into force when you signed the paper, not when you said words.
“As far as I was concerned I was always having a wedding, anyway. I was making the same commitment any couple would make, but the fact it is going to beamarriage on the first day of the new law is pretty awesome.”