Treasury minister Angela Eagle has said she is delighted at the many congratulations she has received since it was announced earlier today that she is to enter into a civil partnership.
While Tory front bencher Alan Duncan chose a more traditional announcement of his recent gay nuptials – an engagement announcement in The Daily Telegraph – Ms Eagle’s was suitably old Labour.
The party’s Deputy Leader Harriet Harman revealed the happy news to the TUC conference earlier today, in the middle of a question and answer session on equality issues.
Ms Eagle told PinkNews.co.uk that she had intended to issue a press release, but she is “more than delighted” that Ms Harman chose to tell a hall full of trade unionists first.
She confirmed that she will enter into a civil partnership with Maria Exall, a BT engineer, at a private ceremony in London on 27th September.
Only “very close family” will attend, among them her twin sister Maria, also an MP and a minister.
Ms Eagle, who is close to Ms Harman, confirmed the Deputy Leader had been invited to “a big party in the evening” but would not be drawn on whether any other Cabinet Ministers would be attending.
“I am not going to publish my guest list but it’s a very eclectic crowd,” she told PinkNews.co.uk.
She insisted that she was comfortable with Ms Harman’s revelation at the TUC conference.
“All the invites have been sent out but I had not made a formal statement to the press. It is as good a way as any.
“Maria and I met in Peckham Labour Party 18 years ago, and so Harriet has more right to announce it than nearly anyone.”
Ms Harman is the MP for Peckham and Camberwell.
Ms Eagle, who has represented Wallasey since 1992, came out as a lesbian soon after the 1997 election.
In June 2007 she was appointed to the government by Gordon Brown, in the newly-revived position of Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury.
She is a member of Labour’s governing body, the National Executive Committee.
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.”
Their partnership will be first entered into by a female MP, unsurprising as Ms Eagle is the only out lesbian in Parliament.
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay equality organisation Stonewall, said:
“Angela was instrumental in getting the Civil Partnership Bill through Parliament and we wish her and Maria many more happy years ahead.”