Hundreds of homosexual couples in Britain are preparing to form civil partnerships in the coming weeks as the Civil Partnership Act comes into force on Monday.
It is the first day they can apply for a civil partnership to cement their relationships in law by notifying Registry Offices of their intent, although the couples will have to wait 15 days before holding a ceremony.
Under the Civil Partnership Act, which won Royal Assent in November 2004, gay and lesbian couples who want to form a partnership must register their intentions with local councils. Unlike marriages, the signing of the legal partnership papers doesnot need to happen in public.
The partnerships will allow homosexuals to benefit from a dead partner's pension, grant next-of-kin rights in hospitals and exempt them from inheritance tax on a partner's home.
The Act does not use the term "gay marriage" but the civil partnerships have clearly been designed to be as close to a marriage contract as possible.
Partners will even be able to dissolve the agreement in a form of divorce.
Campaigners says the law ends inequalities for same-sex couples.
The first ceremonies under the Civil Partnerships Act can take place in Northern Ireland on Dec. 19, followed by Scotland the next day and England and Wales on Dec. 21.
Hundreds of couples are expected to go ahead quickly, with Brighton in southern England conducting 198 ceremonies before the end of the year. Overall, the city has taken 510 bookings for the coming months, thought to be the highest in the country.
Other cities which have seen strong interest include London, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Edinburgh, the Sky news reports.