The number of civil partnerships in the UK has risen for the first time in four years.
New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that 890 civil partnerships were formed in 2016: 604 between male couples and 286 between female couples. This represents a modest but significant 3.4 per cent increase over the previous year’s total of 861.
Civil partnerships hit a never-to-be-equalled peak of 14,943 in 2006 after the Civil Partnership Act first came into force in December of the previous year. They then began to fall, before climbing again around 2010. But when the first legally recognised gay marriages took place in 2014, civil partnerships again went into sharp decline, dropping from 5646 in 2013 to just 1683 the following year. The drop continued in 2015 before entering another uptick last year.
Male civil partners have outnumbered female ones for all but three years since 2005 – in 2010, 2012 and 2013 respectively. Last year was no exception to his general trend: men made up 68 per cent, or more than two thirds, of the couples entering civil partnerships.
Just under half (49 per cent) of the new civil partners last year were aged 50 over: a substantial jump since 2013, when only 19 per cent fell into the older age group. The average age for both men and women was 49, with the median age for women slightly higher (49.9 years) than for men (48.6 years).
Nicola Haines of the ONS contrasted the proportion of gay men entering civil partnerships with the proportion getting married.
“Following legislative change enabling marriages of same-sex couples from March 2014, civil partnership formations declined as the majority of same-sex couples opted for marriage instead. However, 2016 represents the first increase in civil partnership formations since this change, showing that a minority of same-sex couples still prefer this option to marriage. Interestingly, male couples accounted for 68% of all civil partnerships in 2016, however, our latest marriage statistics show that male couples accounted for only 44% of all marriages formed between same sex-couples in 2014.”
Family law organisation Resolution, meanwhile, said the unexpected increase had implications for the ongoing campaign to introduce civil partnerships for heterosexual couples:
“The increase in civil partnerships, for the first time since the introduction of same sex marriages, demonstrates how modern families are changing. It’s important that the law keeps up. These figures will be of interest to policymakers and anyone monitoring the debate about extending civil partnerships to heterosexual couples – who may also wish to choose this way of marking their commitment to each other over marriage.”