An 89-year-old man and his 60-year-old partner have taken part in Swizerland’s first gay civil union, it has been revealed.

The Alpine state passed legislation to recognise same-sex partnerships in 2004, and it came into effect on January 1st.

In a ceremony in Lorcano on Tuesday the couple, who have been together 30 years, exchanged vows in a ceremony described by witness Donatella Zappa as, “very moving.”

The couple wish to remain anonymous.

Zappa, who is a gay rights activist in Swizerland, told Associated Press, “At some point I think we all had tears in our eyes.

“This is the beginning of a new period. The law enables same-sex couples to have the rights every individual should enjoy.”

However, the same-sex civil unions, which were approved by a country-wide referendum in 2005, do not grant full marital rights to gay and lesbian couples.

Same-sex unions have a similar legal status, but gay couples are barred from adopting children or from receiving IVF treatment.

There are no immigration benefits for foreign gay men or lesbians entering into a civil partnership with a Swiss national.

The referendum was the first time in Europe that the issue of same sex partnerships had been the subject of a plebiscite.

The partnership legislation was passed by the Council of States and the National Council in 2004.

Due to Switzerland’s unique system of ‘direct democracy,’ Swiss citizens who collect 50,000 signatures in 30 days can force a referendum on any new law.

The Roman Catholic Church were instrumental in forcing a referendum on same-sex unions, but in the event 60% of Swiss voted for the new laws. The Protestant Churches supported the legislation.