Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said that two Government departments in London will fly a rainbow flag to celebrate the first gay marriages.

The Office for National Statistics in Newport, South Wales had previous flown the rainbow flag as part of its celebrations for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans (LGBT) History Month.

‘As all the same-sex couples make their vows this weekend, they will be making history,’ said Clegg.

‘Finally, after years of campaigning, any couple who wants to get married can get married. Together we have made our country a place where we celebrate love equally, gay or straight – and for that reason we should all be raising a glass. Raising the rainbow flag on Whitehall is a small symbol to celebrate a massive achievement. I want to wish everyone getting married this weekend the very best of luck on what is a truly momentous occasion.’

Although most couples who are booked in for weddings are having to wait until at least mid Saturday morning, some couples will be getting married on the stroke of midnight on Friday night/Saturday morning, including Peter McGraith and David Cabreza, who will be at the Town Hall in Islington, London, and legally married at one minute past midnight. Peter Tatchell, who campaigned for equal marriage, will be one of the witnesses.

Speaking on behalf of himself and David, his future husband, Peter McGraith said: ‘We are thrilled to be getting married. It is a mark of significant social progress in the UK that the legal distinction between gay and straight relationships has been removed.

‘Marriage is hugely symbolic. If people don’t take up the opportunity to marry, then we lose the opportunity to show the world that in some countries, like the UK, we have the same rights as everyone else, which includes the right to marry.

‘Very few countries afford their gay and lesbian citizens equal marriage rights. We believe that this change in the law will bring hope and strength to gay men and lesbians in Nigeria, Uganda, Russia, India and elsewhere, who lack basic equality and are being criminalised for their sexual orientation.’

Peter Tatchell added: ‘Peter and David are personal friends and long-time gay rights campaigners. I am delighted to be their witness on this historic day. Their marriage is a celebration for them and for the whole lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. It marks the end of the ban on same-sex marriage and is another hugely significant milestone in the quest for lesbian and gay equality.

‘The legalisation of same-sex marriage ends the last major legal discrimination against gay people in England and Wales. Scotland will follow later this year. Sadly, Northern Ireland remains a bastion of homophobia. The unionist parties vetoed marriage equality last year.’

Civil partners demand the same rights

Meanwhile, civil partners are calling on the government to issue a clear timeframe for when they can convert to married; at the moment, the government will say only that this will be done by the end of the year.

Michael and Paul Atwal-Brice of Barnsley, who entered into civil partnership in 2008, were delighted when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was passed, but were told that there is no set date which they can begin planning for. They have asked lawyers to keep pressure on the Government to confirm the timetables for when Section 9 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 is to be brought in to allow couples wishing to convert their civil partnerships into marriage.

According to government figures, 55,000 civil partnerships have been formed in England and Wales and lawyers say that those in this position that wish to marry are being treated unfairly. Zoe Round, a specialist family lawyer at Irwin Mitchell solicitors in Sheffield, said: ‘Michael and Paul have been waiting for this legislation to be agreed for years and now, at the final hurdle, they are finding that the process to convert civil partnerships to marriage is not yet implemented.

‘They originally hoped to get married this weekend but instead all those couples in a civil partnership cannot convert to same-sex marriage because the government hasn’t implemented the appropriate systems.’

The government says that there are complications as they wish to ensure that the benefits and rights associated with marriage are backdated for those in civil partnerships.