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John ties the
knot with longtime partner David Furnish

John ties the
knot with longtime partner David Furnish

Elton_weds

The pop star's civil union ceremony is seen as a watershed in the struggle for gay rights--and as the party of the season by celebrity-spotters.

Pop star Elton John tied the knot with longtime partner David Furnish Wednesday in a civil union ceremony seen as a watershed in the struggle for gay rights--and as the party of the season by celebrity-spotters. Fans turned up before sunrise in the cobbled streets around Windsor, England's town hall, the Guildhall, where Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles wed in April. John and Furnish strode into the building for the ceremony at about 10:50 a.m., pausing briefly to smile and wave at the cameras. "It's a special day for Elton. I want to be a part of it, really--it's good fun and it's interesting to see what's going on," said Andrea Lever, who traveled 200 miles from Torquay in southwest England for the event. Suzi Uprichard, 33, of Maidenhead, was excited to take part in what she described as a historic day for same-sex couples. "It's a long time coming, really," Uprichard said. "Admittedly, it's Elton and David's day, but it's the first day that gay couples can engage in civil ceremonies in...England. So I think it's something to celebrate." Police erected security barriers outside the sturdy building of brick and Portland stone partly designed by Christopher Wren, but they expected no trouble. Relaxed officers, some on horseback, chatted with photographers, who stood four and five deep on the streets outside the Guildhall. "It's not a major police operation--it's not a royal wedding," Windsor police spokeswoman Sue Mahoney said. "The general atmosphere seems to be jolly, very good-humored." Fans got into the spirit of the event with posters featuring the couple and Queen Elizabeth II, who has a castle in Windsor, a centuries-old seat of British royalty west of London. A nearby shop wished the couple well with a hand-painted sign reading, "Go for it." John and Furnish are the most prominent of hundreds of same-sex couples who were planning to form civil partnerships in England and Wales on Wednesday, the first day that such ceremonies become possible. Ceremonies were held earlier this week in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Three couples signed their documents moments after the register office opened at 8 a.m. in Brighton, the south coast city known as the United Kingdom's gay capital. "I'm really excited! I'm very happy to be one of the first," said Gino Meriano, who was with his partner, Mike Ullett. Gay rights activists see the unions as joyous--and important in advancing efforts to give same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexuals. Peter Tatchell, spokesman for the gay rights group OutRage! said the wedding "would raise the profile of gay love and commitment." "Their same-sex civil partnership ceremony will be reported all over the world, including in countries where news about gay issues is normally never reported," he said. "This will give hope to millions of isolated, vulnerable lesbian and gay people, especially those living in repressive and homophobic countries." Furnish, a Canadian-born filmmaker, and John have been together for 12 years. The couple plans a low-key private ceremony, with only John's mother and stepfather and Furnish's parents expected to attend. The reception, by contrast, is expected to be a star-studded extravaganza costing an estimated $1.75 million. Two giant white tents have been erected on the grounds of the pop star's Windsor mansion for the bash, which British tabloids claim will be heated adequately to warm the hundreds of guests in skimpy evening gowns. Guests at the couple's bachelor night on Monday--a prelude to the bigger reception on Wednesday--included heavy metal rocker-turned-reality TV star Ozzy Osbourne and his wife, Sharon; model and actress Liz Hurley; and musicians Bryan Adams, Gary Barlow, and Kid Rock. The new law--passed last year despite some opposition from Parliament's unelected House of Lords--allows civil ceremonies that will give same-sex couples the same social security, tax, pension, and inheritance rights as married couples. John and Furnish acknowledged that their ceremony might have broader ramifications. "As far as I'm concerned, I've always considered myself committed to Elton, and he's the person that I want to spend the rest of my life with. So in that sense I don't feel like the dynamic of our relationship is going to change," Furnish told Attitude magazine. "But from a social standpoint, I think it's hugely significant. It is a major, major change. It is one of the defining issues of our times." (AP)

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