A CHAPEL in Bridport is celebrating a historic step after it opened its doors for the first time to same sex couples wanting to get married.

The Unitarian Chapel in the Garden, in East Street, now has a licence to marry same sex couples and recently held a celebration to mark this step in its history.

The Unitarian movement worked with the Quaker and Liberal Jewish communities and campaigned for the legalisation of same sex marriage in the United Kingdom.

Legislation allowing gay couples to marry came into force in March 2014.

After an 18 month process to opt in, the Unitarian Chapel has now received its licence and is registered to unite gay couples in marriage.

Elizabeth Hornby, who is the lay leader at the chapel, said: “[Same sex marriage] is extremely important.

“We talk about how everyone can feel welcome here and we talk about equality a lot and actions speak louder than words.

“All love is equal.”

Members of the chapel congregation gathered after a service on Sunday, July 10 to mark the news with a celebration and a commemorative photo.

There was plenty of elderflower bubbly and raspberries on offer as the congregation celebrated.

Elizabeth added: “The response has been fantastic.

“It has brought a bit of joy and a bit of positive news.

“People from the LGBT community have just felt even more welcome in their hometown.

“We are an open, liberal town and I think this reflects that.

“We always get nice support here in Bridport.”

Elizabeth said that “not many chapels” in the area offer same sex marriage.

She added that “the word is out now” and she expected couples to begin using the chapel soon, but hinted that there was more work to be done to achieve true equality.

She said: “This is only the start because same sex marriage is not the same as equal marriage, which will include transgender marriage.”

The Chapel in the Garden holds numerous events focused around equality, including a recent ‘Umbrella March’ designed to preach unity following the European Union referendum result.

Organisers said umbrellas were chosen as they represent power and dignity.

The Unitarian movement originated in Christianity, but is now followed by those with a variety of religious backgrounds.

The current chapel was built more than 200 years ago in 1798 on the site of the Crown Inn.