AS Tony Blair scurries around in search of his legacy, he should not underestimate the significance of yesterday.

Perhaps he should simply be satisfied with being remembered for his part in creating a fairer and more tolerant society than the one we had before he came to power.

Sooner or later, we would have reached the point at which homosexual couples were able to legalise their commitment to each other.

But it could not have happened in this country under the old Tories and it has positively accelerated in Blair's more caring Britain to the extent that the new Tories, under David Cameron, have seen the need to embrace tolerance and compassion.

Yesterday was an important day for the 700 gay couples who took part in civil partnership ceremonies on the day that same-sex unions became legal in England and Wales.

But while most people in this country are more than happy to live and let live, the journey is incomplete. The Rev Christopher Wardale, of Holy Trinity Church in Darlington, is on a collision course with the Church of England after breaking its official guidelines.

Mr Wardale's future in the Church is in doubt because he and his partner, Malcolm McCourt, held a "thanksgiving" service at a church in Newcastle after taking part in a civil ceremony in the city.

We appreciate the difficulties facing the Church as it also tries to find a path between the ancient and the modern.

But the very fact that such a service - celebrating a more stable and long-lasting relationship than many marriages - has to be held in defiance of Church rules shows that Blair's Britain still has a way to go in tackling long-standing and deep-seated prejudice.