Cross Street Unitarian Chapel has been granted the licence which will allow same-sex couples to hold religious and civil ceremonies in the building.
The, originally the “Dissenters’ Meeting House”, is the mother Church of Non-Conformity in Manchester. The original Chapel erected in 1694 on the site was probably the very first building erected for non-Conformist worship in Lancashire.
William Gaskell, the husband of novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, was famously minister at Cross Street between 1828 and 1884. The Gaskell Society continues to meet at the chapel and there’s a Gaskell Room that houses early editions of her novels.
The Reverend Jane Barraclough, the current minister of Cross Street Chapel, told the BBC that offering the service fulfilled “a basic human right”.
A new law allowing civil partnership ceremonies to be conducted in places of worship came into effect in December 2011.
She said: “We note with sadness the history of homophobia in many faith traditions as well as the current hateful language from some faith leaders that has received so much coverage in the media. But this is a time of great celebration for us, not sadness.”
The Unitarian Church is separate from the Church of England and has ministers who are openly gay.
It was formally resolved that the Unitarian ministry be open to all, regardless of sex, race, colour or sexual orientation, in 1977l
The Church of England has said it will not allow its churches to be used for civil partnership ceremonies unless the full general synod gives its consent.
A Home Office spokesperson said it is the first time a council has contacted the General Register Office to say it has granted a civil partnership licence to a place of worship.