Angela Eagle 320
WIRRAL’S Angela Eagle last night spoke of her pride in becoming the first lesbian MP to enter into a same-sex civil partnership later this month.
The Wallasey MP and her partner Maria Exall yesterday confirmed they plan to register their long-standing relationship at a civil partnership on Saturday, September 27.
Ms Exall, a BT telephone engineer by trade, is currently a full time lay member of the national executive committee of the Communications Workers Union.
Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman accidently spilt the beans of the impending civil partnership ceremony yesterday in front of union delegates at the Trades Union Congress in Brighton.
Ms Eagle, the only open lesbian MP, last night said: “I was sat up in the gallery, but I don’t think she knew she was going to do it.
“I was a bit surprised. We had not exactly planned to make it public in this fashion, but that’s fine with me, we are old friends.”
The ceremony will be held in London in front of close friends and family followed by a larger party, to be attended by Labour party figures.
The pair, who are both 47, met at Peckham Labour party where Ms Eagle was the secretary and Ms Exall was a member; they have been together for 18 years.
Same-sex civil partnership legislation came into force in December 2005, giving gay people the same rights as married men and women.
David Borrow, who represents South Ribble in Lancashire, became the first MP to have a civil union in May 2006.
Ms Eagle, a treasury minister, said: “We are both delighted to be taking advantage of legislation brought in by the Labour Government that recognises same sex relationships.
“Maria and I are looking forward to making our relationship official and celebrating this with our friends and family later this month.”
“It’s very special, it’s much more than a piece of paper.
“I am very proud of the fact that it was my government that changed the law to make this possible for gay people.”
She said discrimination and stigma towards gay people was not as bad as people had thought when Maria and herself met.
“I don’t know it was as bad as people thought, the law had not caught up with most people’s views.”
She said the pair shared a passion for politics and a general interest in society, although naturally they do not always agree on everything.
“There has a been a fair amount of interest but that is OK, we are both very happy.”
Ms Exall said: “We are very happy. I am excited and looking forward to the day.”