GAY rights campaigners have hailed a church which has become one of only two in Bolton to offer same sex marriages.Bank Street Unitarian Chapel has announced it will offer same sex marriages after being granted a licence by Bolton Council.A council spokesman confirmed the Walmsley Unitarian Church was the first to receive a licence in October 2014 after the Government announced it would change the law.
The council said that 14 civil venues in Bolton were automatically given approval when the new law was passed, including at Mere Hall Registry Office, The Albert Halls, Holiday Inn Bolton Central, Georgian House, Silverwell Hall, Smithills Hall, Toby Carvery, Excellency Hall, Britannia Hotel, Bolton Whites Hotel, Bolton School, Last Drop Village Hotel, The Brinsop, Brookfield and Ridgmont House.
Stephen Lingwood, the minister at Bank Street, said: "It has been a long winded process with a lot of form filling but we are happy that we can now offer same sex marriages.
"For us as Unitarians, equality is a big part of what our faith is about, and it is the spiritual foundation of our religion.
"It is great to have that equality with the way we do marriage and that we can treat all couples equally now." The minister said the church has already had an enquiry from a same sex couple, and that he hopes the church will have its first this summer.
He said: "There are not many places where same sex couples can get married where they can have a religious or spiritual element to their wedding, because you can't have prayers and such things in a secular venue.
"People can go to hotels if they like, but a lot of same sex couples are spiritual people so it is great they can be part of our ethos.
The minister also said that the church has not received any negative comments, but have been sent messages of congratulations.
He said: "I would be delighted if other churches followed us.
★★★★ THE Unitarian Church was especially inviting at this concert, with sunlight streaming through rococo stained glass panels and clay walls keeping the humidity at bay.