Douglas Borough Council has become the first local authority on the Isle of Man to receive approval to hold civil partnerships ceremonies for same-sex couples.

The new status means the Town Hall in Douglas will be able to act as a licensed venue for the solemnisation of civil heterosexual marriages and formation of civil partnerships with immediate effect.

Gay couples on the Isle of Man were first able to hold civil partnership ceremonies at the General Registry in Douglas after a civil partnerships bill was signed into law on 15 March 2011.

Douglas Council leader David Christian welcomed the move and said: “We look forward to welcoming couples, their families and friends.”

He added: “This is yet another first for the council and we look forward to welcoming couples to celebrate their happy occasion.

“The imposing surroundings of the council chamber have long served as the backdrop to animated debate, so the chamber will provide a fitting setting in which to hold civil ceremonies”.

The population of the Isle of Man is around 80,000.

In May, the Chief Minister of the Isle of Man Allan Bell criticised a landlord for preventing a lesbian couple from renting a flat due to their sexuality.

The following month, Mr Bell promised to address the “distressing” lack of legal safeguards for same-sex couples on the island.

There are currently no plans by the Legislative Council to introduce equal marriage on the island.