Labour's Eagle in Civil Partnership
Publish Date: 12/09/2008Treasury Minister and MP for Wallasey Angela Eagle confirmed yesterday that she will enter into a civil partnership with Maria Exall, a BT engineer, at a private ceremony in London on 27th September.
She has said that she is delighted at the many congratulations she has received since the civil partnership was announced by Labour's Deputy Leader Harriet Harman to the TUC conference, in the middle of a question and answer session on equality issues.
Ms Eagle, who is close to Ms Harman, confirmed the Deputy Leader had been invited to "a big party in the evening" but that only "very close family" will attend, among them her twin sister Maria, also an MP and a minister.
Ms Eagle, who has represented Wallasey since 1992, came out as a lesbian soon after the 1997 election. She is Britain's first out lesbian MP, since Labour's Maureen Colquhoun in the 1970s. At the time, she said: "I have a long-term and very happy relationship... I happen to be with a woman."
Having been elected 15 years ago and being in Government for over a decade , Ms Eagle was recently promoted by Gordon Brown to a superior ministerial position at the treasury, where she works closely with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling.
Eagle has been an extremely active and successful campaigner for the gay rights movement, helping to push through several pieces of significant legislation. In 2007, she was given the title of Politician of the Year by gay equality organisation Stonewall. Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, said:"Angela was instrumental in getting the Civil Partnership Bill through Parliament and we wish her and Maria many more happy years ahead."
She will become the first female Labour MP to form a civil partnership, two years after Labour Health Minister Ben Bradshaw became the first MP to hold a civil partnership ceremony. Other male MPs have followed, such as Alan Duncan, Shadow Business Secretary, and his partner James Dunseath, a Press Officer in the city, in the summer.
The civil partnership ceremony and party will take place the weekend after the Labour Party Conference in Manchester. Ms Eagle said it was more of a "mutual ask" than a proposal - "I don't think I went down on one knee" - but that the timing has more to do with Maria's busy life than the political calendar."
We have been together for 18 years and after the civil partnership act came in we both knew that we wanted to." Miss Exall, who was also in Brighton, said: "We are very happy, excited and looking forward to the day."
Everyone at The Lesbian and Gay Foundation would like to wish Angela and Maria
all the very best for the future.