Ref. 25835-10ANDY Shaw and Gary Napier want to be married.

And they could be one step closer if Swindon Council creates a civic register of same-sex and heterosexual couples.

The proposal, being spearheaded by Swindon Liberal Democrats, is to be debated at a full council meeting tonight.

Accountant Andy, 36, from Churchward, said: "I think it is about time Swindon stopped living in the Victorian era. This sounds like a step in the right direction.

"When two people love each other they should be allowed to cement the bond in marriage, regardless of their sex."

Andy and Gary first met at the London Street club, Swindon's only gay club, and have been together for 10 months.

Having lived under the same roof since March, they feel ready to tie the knot.

Andy said: "We want to get married to acknowledge our commitment. I'm not asking to wear a white dress!

"We just want a quiet ceremony with friends and family to formally acknowledge our relationship."

Gary, 23, who works in McDonalds, is equally keen for the register to be established as soon as possible.

He said: "We are supposed to live in an equal opportunity society, so this is long overdue.

"Gay people are still discriminated against, because of naivety and prejudice.

"But I have nothing to hide. In fact I'm really proud to be with Andy."

Although Gary knew he was gay as a teenager, he only broke the news to family and friends five months ago.

He said: "People at school used to tease me and I would even pretend I had a girlfriend for an easy life. I still get some stick from work colleagues.

"But now, with the support of my family and close friends, I can cope with it. Life's too short not to show your true feelings."

Gary Jefferson, manager of Gay Men's Health Wiltshire and Swindon, also supports to the motion to recognise the partnership and commitment status of both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships in a register.

He said: "I would be very surprised if it doesn't happen. It's about time Swindon caught up with where we are in the 21st century.

"Hopefully it would help to integrate couples into the community, regardless of their sexuality."

Councillor Martin Wiltshire will put forward the proposal during tonight's meeting at the Civic Offices.

He said: "The fact that other councils, such as Bath and Bristol allow civil commitment ceremonies shows that Swindon could lag behind if we don't act now.

"The register fulfils the basic requirement to embrace all relationships and is a formal alternative to marriage."

Paul Lancaster, spokesman for North Wiltshire District Council, said: "The idea is currently under consultation. But in terms of actually setting up the register, this lies beyond our realm of responsibility."