Only one in eight gay couples in England and Wales have converted their civil partnership into a marriage, new research has revealed.
Gay people who wanted legal recognition of their relationships were finally able to get it in December 2005 after the Civil Partnership Act was introduced. Only available to same sex couples, civil partnerships granted them the same rights as heterosexual married couples for property, inheritance and other matters.
Although this was regarded as a step in the right direction for gay rights activists, they continued to push for full marriage equality. Their efforts led to the coalition government’s passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. This allowed couples in civil partnerships to convert their relationships into marriage.
This week, researchers from Oxford University published a study which found that only 5,300 couples did so, which represents only one out of every eight civil partnerships.
Despite this low figure, such couples still outnumbered the 2,500 gay couples who married without a civil partnership beforehand. Women were more likely to convert their relationship than men, although the opposite was true when the law was first enacted, the study also found.
Study author John Haskey is a senior researcher in Oxford University’s Department of Social Policy and Intervention. He said that “same-sex marriage has not been the trailblazer that civil partnership evidently was”. When civil partnerships were initially introduced, almost 15,000 couples registered in the first year, he explained.
His study also indicated that there is a demand to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples. England and Wales is currently in a “unique” legal position as it gives “gay couples more legal protection than opposite-sex couples who cohabit”, the study noted.
Mr Haskey’s research will be published in the next edition of the academic journal Family Law.