First same-sex weddings take place after gay marriage becomes legal

(AP)

The first gay weddings have taken place in England and Wales after same-sex marriage became legal overnight.

Prime Minister David Cameron wrote in an article for Pink News that it was "an important moment for our country".

"It says we are a country that will continue to honour its proud traditions of respect, tolerance and equal worth," he said.

Couples timed the saying of their vows with the stroke of midnight, while more gay weddings were set to take place throughout Saturday.

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was chief witness at the wedding of Peter McGraith and David Cabreza in Islington.

The Church of England is prohibited from performing same-sex weddings and the Government has insisted that clergy will not be forced to perform them against their will.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was pragmatic in his response to gay marriages becoming legal.

"The law's changed; we accept the situation," he told the BBC.

The Church of England officially upholds marriage as a union between one man and one woman, although its guidance states that people in same-sex relationships should be welcomed in churches.

Last month, bishops in the Church of England rejected the possibility of official blessings for gay marriages while allowing clergy pastoral discretion to decide if they want to say a more informal prayer.

"Services of blessing should not be provided. Clergy should respond pastorally and sensitively in other ways," the guidance states.

The Church also prohibits people in a same-sex marriage from being ordained.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, head of Christian Concern and a member of the Church of England General Synod, was damning of the change to the law.

She said yesterday that marriage had been "obliterated" and that while the label remains "the substance has gone".

"The churches must not retreat but demonstrate that real marriage stands for life-long commitment whatever the cost; marriage that puts the welfare of children first; marriage that values the complementary roles of man and woman; marriage that reflects the self-sacrificial love of God," she said. 

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