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Gay marriages statistics

The Civil Partnership Act 2004, which came into force in December 2005, allowed same sex couples in the UK to register their relationship for the first time and have it legally recognised.

This gave couples who registered as civil partners a package of rights and responsibilities including the ability to apply for parental responsibility of their civil partner’s child and the full range of financial orders available to a married couple.

The Act celebrates its tenth anniversary in December 2015, so with that in mind, Howells Solicitors decided to research, highlight and examine some of the statistics and trends that have emerged over the past decade.

Civil Partnership Statistics

The number of civil partnerships in the UK peaked in the first quarter of 2006 at 4,869. The ONS believes that this was because a large number of same sex couples in long-standing relationships took advantage of the opportunity to formalise their relationship as soon as the legislation was implemented.

This is reflected in the fact that between the 21st of December and 23rd of December 2005, 1,227 civil partnerships were formed.

Figure 1: Civil partnership formations by sex and civil partnership dissolutions

civil partnership statistics

(Image: Office for National Statistics)

The number of civil partnership formations has since decreased (as illustrated in the above graph), fluctuating between 6,200 and 7,200 per year since 2008.

It is interesting to note that the Government Equalities Office originally estimated that there would be between 11,000 and 22,000 civil partners in Great Britain by 2010, but there were actually over 79,000 people in civil partnerships at the beginning of 2010.

Gay Divorce Statistics

The equivalent of divorce for civil partnerships is ‘dissolution’.

There were 794 dissolutions of civil partnerships granted in England and Wales in 2012, an increase of 20% since 2011. By the end of 2012, 3.2% of male and 6.1% of female civil partnerships in England and Wales had ended in dissolution.

The number of civil partnership dissolutions granted in England and Wales in 2013 was 974, a further increase of 20% on the previous year.

It is thought that the rising number of dissolutions is a consequence of the increasing number of civil partners living in England and Wales.

Gay Marriage Facts and Statistics

The Marriages (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 made a provision for the marriage of same sex couples in England and Wales, either in a civil ceremony or on religious premises. The first marriage of same sex couples took place on the 29th March 2014.

The ONS released statistics relating to the first four months of same sex marriage in August 2014, but further figures have yet to be released.

Figure 2: Number of marriages of same sex couples in England and Wales by month, 29 March 2014 to 30 June 2014.

civil partnership statistics

 (Image: Office for National Statistics)

A total of 1.409 marriages were formed between same sex couples between the 29th of March and the 30th of June 2014. Of these, 56% were female couples (796 marriages) while 44% were to male couples (613 marriages).

95 same sex marriages took place over the first three days after 29th March 2014, significantly lower than the number of civil partnerships formed over the same time (1,227 as noted above). 
The mean average age of women married was 37.0 years, slightly lower than that of the mean male, which was 38.6 years.

On the 10th of December 2014, it also became possible for civil partnerships to be converted into marriages, but statistics relating to the number of conversions made are not yet available. 

It was suggested that, in light of this change in the law, civil partnership should either be abolished or closed to new couples. However, the Civil Partnership Review, which was carried out by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport in June 2014, found that less than a third of respondents supported abolition of civil partnership, and the majority were against closing civil partnership to new couples.

The Government, then, is waiting to see the impact that allowing same sex couples to marry will have on the number of couples still opting for civil partnership before making any changes.
When talking to The Guardian, equal rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, said:

“The government’s decision to retain civil partnerships is welcome. Not everyone wants to get married, given that marriage has a long sexist and homophobic history. It is right that all couples should have a choice.”

However, it remains the case that civil partnership is not available to opposite sex couples.

Civil Partnerships for Opposite Sex Couples

Since the Civil Partnership Act came into force in 2005, there has been some call in the UK for opposite sex couples to be allowed to enter into these unions.

Reasons for this include:

•    The ‘long sexist and homophobic history of marriage’ (see Peter Tatchell, above)
•    Feminist rejections of ‘patriarchal’ marriage
•    All couples having equal access to both civil partnerships and marriage

Nevertheless, the above-mentioned survey found that over three-quarters of respondents were against opening up civil partnerships to opposite sex couples, and as a result of this lack of consensus, the Government decided not to make any changes.

This decision could be subject to change, however, as in December 2014, a couple from west London began a legal challenge against the effective ban on members of the opposite sex entering into civil partnerships. It is thought that theirs is the first attempt in the British courts to make partnerships available to heterosexual couples, and a judicial review is expected to be heard in late 2015.

Talk to Howells Solicitors

The team of civil partnership solicitors at Howells have advised and assisted a large number of clients in civil partnership disputes, applications for residence and contact, financial matters and the conclusion of their legal relationship.

civil partnerships

We offer a specialist, experienced service, and are available to discuss your personal situation on 0808 178 2773.


(Image: Charlie Dave under CC BY 2.0)

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