THE first gay marriages in Essex took place on Saturday as history was made in the fight for equality.

Same-sex marriages became legal at midnight on Friday and couples across the county exchanged vows this weekend.

The change in the law means marriages between people of the same sex will have exactly the same standing in law as those between members of the opposite sex.

Until now, gay and lesbian couples could only enter into a civil partnership which gave same sex couples most, but not all, of the rights of a marriage.

Christian Gilson was one of the first men in the country to take advantage of the change, when he married Steve Hanafin, 46, at Southend Register Office at 11.30am on Saturday.

The couple, who live in Manchester Drive, Leigh, tied the knot in a small ceremony for close family and friends.

Later that day, Laindon couple Kalie Mills, 26, and Michelle Gilby, 29, married in front of 170 guests at the Three Rivers Golf and Country Club, in Cold Norton.

Kalie said they had already been planning a civil partnership, but decided to get married instead.

Michelle said: “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 that it is a marriage on the first day of the new law is pretty awesome.”

Family and friends celebrated the marriage of Britain’s first gay parents, Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow, at the Greenwoods Hotel and Spa, in Stock.

However, the ceremony was not an actual wedding as the law has not yet been changed to allow couples in civil partnerships, which Barrie and Tony entered into in 2006, to marry without first divorcing.

It was organised by Eighties pop star David Van Day for his TV show about surrogacy, the Parent Makers, and featured Amy Childs as the ring bearer and Towie’s Bobby Norris as best man.

Speaking before the ceremony, Tony said he and Barrie were nervous, but overjoyed.

He said: “The change in the law is really exciting. It’s amazing people can now do what they should have been able to do 20 years ago.”

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act came into force in July last year, but it was not until March 13 couples were able to register their intention to marry under the Act for the first time. At the moment, the law prohibits the Church of England from performing samesex marriages and also states other religious organisations can refuse to perform them.

Scotland passed a similar law in February and the first gay marriages are expected to take place there in October.

If you are a same-sex couple who has married since the change in law, send wedding pictures and details of your day to