SAME sex couples will be able to get married in Dorset for the first time in 2014.

Registrars at Kingston Maurward College will be performing same sex ceremonies from March 29 when new legislation comes into force.

Couples who have previously had civil ceremonies at the venue can opt to change their paperwork to married status or have a full wedding ceremony, treating it like a renewal of their original vows and getting a formal marriage certificate.

Operations manager Darlene Reid said: “Kingston Maurward has always fully supported civil ceremonies and celebrates the introduction of same sex marriages.

“Many same sex couples are already enquiring about weddings during the summer of 2014 and beyond.”

Tony Foster and Brian Harris, who live in Bournemouth and had their civil ceremony at Kingston Maurward in 2009 said that they will definitely be getting married.

Tony said: “I feel strongly about it as civil unions felt like a half way step towards equality.

“Being able to say we are married instead of in a civil partnership will mean we are being treated the same as everyone else.”

Same sex ceremonies at Kingston Maurward will be performed by the same registrars as with civil partnerships, but it will mean the couples are recognised as married.

The new legislation means that same sex couples in England and Wales will have the same rights as heterosexual couples for the first time.

Women and Equalities Minister Maria Miller said: “Marriage is the bedrock of our society and now irrespective of sexuality everyone in British society can make that commitment.

“It is a wonderful achievement and whilst this legislation may be about marriage, its impact is so much wider.

“Making marriage available to all couples demonstrates our society’s respect for all individuals regardless of their sexuality.

“It demonstrates the importance we attach to being able to live freely. It says so much about the society that we are and the society that we want to live in.”

The act means that same sex couples will be able to marry in civil ceremonies and in religious ceremonies where the religious organisation has ‘opted in’ to conduct them.

Religious organisations and their representatives who don’t wish to conduct same sex marriages will be legally protected.