Same-sex civil unions are set to become legal in the United Kingdom today. The civil partnerships will enjoy all the legal and financial protections previously reserved only for married heterosexual couples.

As The Observer [London] explains: Gay couples who register as civil partners will take on the obligation to support each other financially, even after the relationship ends. To split, they will have to go through a “divorce” process, with the courts dividing up the assets regardless of ownership if they fail to reach a settlement. They will be exempt from inheritance tax when the first partner dies, and will have the same pension rights as married couples.

Further: Gay marriage is legal in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Canada. Britain has not gone that far, but civil partnership will be marriage in all but name, granting legal rights virtually identical to those enjoyed by married couples.

An estimated 22,000 same-sex couples are expected to register for civil partnerships, reports BBC News, with approximately 1,200 ceremonies already planned. as ABC News reports, some of the early registrants may include singer Elton John and his partner David Furnish, as well as singer George Michael and his partner Kenny Goss.

From ABC News: Roger Lockyer and Percy Stevens have been together 40 years and plan to be first in line in London when the new law takes effect Dec. 21. “We’ll be making history,” said Lockyer. “What matters surely is not the physical nature of relationship but the quality of the love.”

This “quality of love” argument is sure to be heard again and again as the civil partnerships take effect and calls for similar legislation in other nations grow in intensity.

According to BBC News, Civil partnerships are a legally recognised union between two people of the same sex. While this sounds fairly dry and technical, it is to all intents and purposes a right of marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Couples who become partnered will have the right to exactly the same legal treatment across a range of matters as a married couple would expect.

So centuries of moral wisdom are being discarded as marriage is dismantled before our eyes. That’s not stopping many businesses from seeing these new ceremonies as a windfall. Some estimate the British “gay marriage market” at over $1-billion per year. Many are anxious to profit from the debacle.

All this should remind Christians that a market economy often commercializes vice and packages sin as a commodity. I do believe that a market economy — based upon a free market and the system of capitalism — promises the most prosperity for humankind.  Furthermore, given the Christian doctrine of sin — both individual and institutional — we must reject the centralized control and collectivism of theories such as Marxism.  Socialism fails because the reward of labor and investment is denied to those who deserve such rewards and because social structures embody the sins of those who comprise the society.

Nevertheless, Christians who argue for an unrestrained celebration of market capitalism should be chastened by news of those ready to profit from the adoption of same-sex unions in Britain.  Once the profits of such false marriages are in hand and growing, the economy will effectively normalize homosexuality as a lifestyle.

From The Independent [London]: Ben Spence set up his internet company, Pink Products, specifically to cater for the gay marriage business. He said: “The traffic has been simply phenomenal in the last few weeks, with about 3,000 hits a day. You have to remember that these are people with enormous spending power and some have waited decades for a law like this. “I know people who are planning to spend up to £60,000 on their wedding day because they want it to be special.”

Among the most popular items from Pink Products are “his and his” cake figurines (sculpted to look different from each other), personalised chocolate wedding favours and “just married” thongs. With the “pink pound” estimated to be worth £5bn in Britain, companies such as Hilton Hotels, the Jane Asher cake company and the John Lewis Partnership are already advertising with Mr Spence’s company. The gay wedding market will be worth about £600m a year, according to a study by Out Now Consulting, a marketing firm. A spokeswoman for John Lewis said: “We have a very established wedding gift list for couples who are getting married and we want to offer the same level of service to same sex couples.”

Richard Jones, another planner seeking homosexual clients, told ABC News: Some people are looking for tradition,” he said. “And some people are looking to totally theme their day — everything from winter wonderland ice palaces to favorite movies like ‘Wizard of Oz.’

It’s a carnival atmosphere, according to The Guardian [London]: April Angell of KissMyPanties.com is a transgender wedding photojournalist. “I Googled myself yesterday,” she says, “And I think I’m the only one in the world.” Not for long, Angell, not for long. Here at the Gay Wedding Show in Brighton, there is a palpable sense of an industry in the making. The UK’s most progressive hoteliers, florists, solicitors, jewellers, harpists and cake decorators are at the Hilton Metropole to tout their wares to a new breed of wedding customer – the estimated 11,000 same-sex couples expected to tie the knot in the next five years, thanks to the Civil Partnerships Act which comes into force today. While the Act concerns itself with lofty legal issues – giving gay partners similar benefits over capital gains tax, pensions and inheritance – down at ground level, it is an invitation to party.

What if things go wrong? The Guardian reports: The first gay “divorce” will not happen before 2007 because, as with marriage, unhappy partners will not be able to file for dissolution until they have given it a go for at least one year. The Law Society is advising would-be civil partners to consider a prenuptial agreement, which allows a couple to spell out who should get what if they split. The snag is that, although the courts will take account of them, they are not legally enforceable.

In Scotland, a similar law will take effect in fifteen days [see BBC News coverage].