The legislation, which comed into force on Monday, gives homosexual couples the same property and inheritance rights as married heterosexuals, and entitles them to the same pension, immigration and tax benefits.


After a two-week waiting period they will be able to register their partnerships legally for the first time.


Gary McKeever, of The Rainbow Project, which provides information, education and training for gay and bisexual men in Northern Ireland, where the first partnerships will be registered on 19 December, said: "We're getting what we deserve.


"We have no plans to do anything spectacular. It's just going to be done in a dignified way."


"We're getting what we deserve"

Gary McKeever,
The Rainbow Project

The usually flamboyant British singer Elton John epitomises the fuss-free attitude many gay couples are adopting.


He and David Furnish, his partner of many years, plan to tie the knot on 21 December, the earliest possible date to do so in England.


"The ceremony will be very private, a small family affair, David's parents, my parents and the two of us. They'll be our witnesses," John told gay magazine Attitude.


Partnership not marriage


Unlike those in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Canada, Britain's civil partnership is not a marriage.


Debra Reynolds, a registrar in Brighton - Britain's unofficial gay capital - says many homosexual couples have been together for decades and want a simple ceremony.


"I would say 75% are keen to have one (a ceremony) ... but I would also say a lot of people are saying 'We don't want any fuss'," Reynolds told Reuters.


"I would say 75% are keen to have one (a ceremony) ... but I would also say a lot of people are saying 'We don't want any fuss'"

Debra Reynolds,
Registrar in Brighton

Nevertheless, the new legislation has given a boost to companies eager to attract the so-called pink pound.


A gay wedding show in London this month offered 100 displays from chocolate fountains to fuchsia commitment stationery. Firms promoted his-and-his cufflinks and wedding cakes topped with two male figurines.


There has been little vocal opposition to the changes - Elton John believes that he and Furnish are "very lucky to live in Britain. I cannot think of a more tolerant place to live".




However, pockets of resistance to same-sex partnerships and to homosexuality remain, not least in Northern Ireland.


Homosexuality was legalised in Northern Ireland only in 1982 - 15 years after England and Wales. At the time, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) - run then as now by Ian Paisley, a voluble Protestant cleric - ran a "Save Ulster from Sodomy" campaign.


The DUP, the province's largest political party, opposed the civil partnership legislation, but says it supports equality. Gay rights groups, though, are sceptical.


Earlier this month a DUP councillor said God sent Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans for organising a gay pride event.