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First gay marriage in the UK? Mike and Matthew hope so

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: March 07, 2014

By Michael Ribbeck

Mike McBeth and Matthew Symonds have been together for 20 years   PICTURE: DAN REGAN

Mike McBeth and Matthew Symonds have been together for 20 years PICTURE: DAN REGAN

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After more than two decades together, Mike McBeth and Matthew Symonds are looking to make their very own piece of history.

The duo, who live in the Southville area of Bristol, have high hopes of becoming the first married gay couple in Bristol and one of the first same-sex couples in the country to tie the knot.

On the last Saturday of this month, gay couples will be able to get married for the first time and a flurry of ceremonies are expected across the country. And as soon as Mike and Matthew heard the law was going to be brought in earlier than expected they rushed through plans for their big day.

The couple met 20 years ago through a mutual involvement as activists in the Labour Party and in various community organisations.

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Matthew, 40, said: "We knew that the new law was coming in but everyone was expecting it to be later in the year. When the Government decided to push forward the date we decided to go for it even though it has been a bit of a rush. We had thought about a civil partnership but decided to wait until we could have a full marriage. I guess the chance to put our relationship on an equal footing as everyone else was an opportunity that we did not want to miss, this is about bringing discrimination to an end.

"We wanted to make a statement about how it is perfectly normal for two men to share a loving, caring relationship together for 20 years."

Matthew, who works for the Canal and River Trust, said: "You have to remember that I grew up in the 1980s where attitudes were very different to where we are today. It was difficult to be openly gay and there was a lot of prejudice around.

"We are in a very different place now but that does not mean that prejudice and discrimination has gone for good."

Mike, 53, works at Bath Spa University as head of quality assurance for the School of Society, Enterprise and Environment and as head of the Department of Health Studies and Sociology.

The couple are both keen keep-fit enthusiasts and Mike is a runner and a member of Southville Running Club.

He is currently training for the Edinburgh and Berlin marathons. Both are cyclists and regularly go on long cycling holidays.

In 2012 they rode the west coast of the USA from Vancouver to San Diego; last year they cycled from Chicago to Washington DC. They are currently thinking about where they might pedal to on a honeymoon.

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2 comments

  • kayag  |  March 14 2014, 7:37PM

    This is fantastic news. I am so pleased I had the opportunity to be taught by Mike. He is one of the loveliest people I have met and one I will always remember. The 'eccentric, gay vegan'. I wish him and his soon to be husband all the very best with the wedding and many more years of happiness together

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  • StanStill  |  March 07 2014, 6:44AM

    Oh dear, what is the world coming too.

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