Gay couples on the Isle of Man can now apply to have a civil partnership.

A new law came into force today and the first ceremonies can take place next week.

The change brings the island’s law in line with the UK, which legalised civil partnerships in 2005.

Gay couples will be able to enjoy the same tax, inheritance and benefits rights as straight couples.

Assistant chief registrar Ian Gilmore said: “With effect from April 6th, prospective civil partners will be able to start the procedures that will ultimately lead to them signing a civil partnership schedule, and from that point onwards law will recognise their partnership.”

The Isle of Man has lagged far behind the UK on gay rights for years. Homosexuality was illegal on the island until 1992 and the age of consent was equalised in 2006.