A district council Kent has become the first council in Kent and the second in England to vote in favour of the government’s proposals for equal marriage, it was announced today.

Thanet District Council voted in favour of the proposals by a two-thirds majority, the independent councillor who moved the motion said today. Southwark Council in London has already voted to support the move.

Councillor Ian Driver said today: “I am delighted with the result. Thanet has demonstrated that it is a progressive Council which cares about the civil rights of it large lesbian, gay and transgender community.

“I hope that the vote in Thanet will encourage other Kent Councils and KCC to follow our lead. We need to send out a clear message that the days of old fashioned bigotry and homophobia are over and Kent is a welcoming and inclusive place for people to visit and live, whatever their background.”

In his speech to the council, Mr Driver had highlighted the economic benefits of equal marriage to Thanet’s economy.

He said: “If equal marriage becomes law I estimate that there will 20-30 same sex marriages in Thanet every year. The average couple spends £15,000 on their wedding so that’s £450,000 being spent every year which will be a massive boost to local business and jobs”.

The region’s MP, Sir Roger Gale, has spoken against the plans to introduce civil marriage equality, calling them “almost Stalinist”, saying they would “rewrite history and tradition” and, now famously, questioning what effect lifting the ban would have on how Shakespeare is taught.

Writing in the Thanet Extra, he had said: “If we are to re-construct official and business documentation and to replace “Husband and Wife” with “spouses” and “partners” where will this stop? Will Shakespeare and Milton and The Holy Bible be re-written also? Will only “correctly” expurgated literature be allowed to be used in the classroom?”

Mr Driver said cheers had erupted from the public gallery last night as the council passed the motion expressing its support for equal marriage rights for the region’s gay couples.