A gay couple who took on the British and Spanish governments over the recognition of their civil partnership have won a major victory.

Paul and Martin Ward signed the civil partnership register in Devon on Valentine’s Day this year, having been advised that it would be recognised in Spain, where Paul lives.

However, when the couple returned to Spain to live, they found out from the British Consul in Malaga that their civil partnership was not recognised in Spain.

“We both decided to fight for our partnership to be recognised here in Spain, in the same way that Spain recognises a UK heterosexual marriage and the UK recognises a Spanish gay marriage,” the couple said today.

“We have had long, protracted battles with Denise Holt, the British ambassador to Spain, Michael Holloway, the British Consul General in Madrid, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband.”

The couple were backed in their campaign to receive recognition for their partnership by MEPs Glenys Kinnock and Michael Cashman and by gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

In August the Foreign Secretary met with his Spanish counterpart to discuss their case.

The Wards were then advised by the British consul that the British Embassy in Madrid, the FCO and the Spanish Ministry of Justice were negotiating a decision on Spanish recognition of UK same-sex civil partnerships.

Their campaign paid off, as the Spanish government has now agreed to recognise the civil partnerships of UK lesbian and gay couples.

“We visited the British Consul on 29th November to change our status in our passports,” the couple told PinkNews.co.uk

“We have made a little bit of history by becoming the first UK same-sex couple resident in Spain to have their civil partnership acknowledged in law and in the observations section of our passports.”

Mr Tatchell welcomed the Spanish government’s decision.

“This is a big breakthrough in securing overseas recognition and

rights for British lesbian and gay civil partners,” he said.

“Up to now, civil partnerships are mostly unrecognised abroad.

“This creates huge legal problems for UK lesbian and gay civil

partners who travel, work or retire abroad. They are treated as two

single people, with neither rights nor responsibilities.

“Up to now, the Spanish government has dismissed civil partnerships as a uniquely British institution, with no international validity. It has refused to give any legal rights to UK same-sex civil partners who have settled in Spain; viewing civil partnerships as inferior to civil marriage and unworthy of recognition.

“Spain’s decision to recognise UK civil partnerships is the result of months of lobbying by two UK civil partners who now live in Spain, Paul and Martin Ward. They fought and won this concession,”

The decision is particularly significant because millions of British people live in Spain.