A TOWN centre chapel is celebrating bookings being made for same sex civil partnership ceremonies — months after it became the second church in Greater Manchester to be licensed to perform the services.

Bank Street Unitarian Chapel became only one of only about 20 in the country to apply for and be granted the right to perform ceremonies for gay couples.

Two couples, who are both thought to be from Bolton, have booked ceremonies in March and September next year.

The chapel applied to be become licensed after legislation was changed two years ago and was given the go-ahead in December.

Stephen Lingwood, the church’s minister, said the licence being granted was a justice for which Unitarians had been fighting for decades.

He said: “Both couples who have booked the ceremonies aren’t members of the chapel but searched the internet and found us.

“One couple in particular said a religious wedding was something that was important to them.

“We are really proud. We are an inclusive community. Part of what we are about is being inclusive and liberal. We welcome all people.”

He said members of the church discussed what marriage meant to them last year and it was agreed that all couples should be treated equally.”

Mr Lingwood is now keeping a close eye on the recent passing of the same sex marriage bill through parliament and hopes Bank Street Unitarian Chapel will one day be able to conduct same sex marriages.

The same six civil partnership ceremonies enable couples to have prayers, whereas registry offices and hotels, which most commonly offer the ceremonies, are unable to include religious elements.

Earlier this month MPs voted by 366 votes to 161 to pass the marriage (same sex couples) bill at its third reading. It will now go to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.