Like it’s going out of fashion: Civil Partnerships

New figures from the Office for National Statistics show a big drop in the number of people registering civil partnerships since same-sex marriage became legal in most of the UK.

There were 861 civil partnerships formed in England and Wales in 2015, a fall of 49% from 1,683 in 2014.That reflects a decline of 85% since 2013.

Elizabeth McLaren, at the Office for National Statistics, commented: “Civil partnerships have fallen sharply since the introduction of marriages for same sex couples in March 2014. On the other hand, civil partnership dissolutions have increased due to the rising number of civil partnerships that were formed since they were introduced in December 2005.

“Dissolutions are likely to reduce in the future as more same sex couples form marriages instead of civil partnerships.”

Two-thirds (66%) of civil partnerships formed in 2015 were between men – the highest proportion since civil partnership formations were introduced in 2005.

However there is regional variation – women are, albeit slightly, more likely than men to register a civil partnership in Wales, North East England and Yorkshire & the Humber.

Nearly half (48%) of all civil partners forming a partnership in 2015 were aged 50 and over; this compares with 19% in 2013 prior to the introduction of marriages of same sex couples.

Brighton and Hove was the local authority with the largest number of civil partnership registrations in 2015, with 28 male and 10 female registrations. The London boroughs Islington (19 male and 10 female) and Wandsworth (25 male and 4 female) tied for the second largest number of registrations.

Breaking Up

civil-partnership-dissolutions-by-sex-2007-to-2015
Graph: Office for National Statistics

There were 1,211 civil partnership dissolutions granted in 2015, a 14% increase compared with 2014.

By the end of 2015, 6.8% of male and 11.7% of female civil partnerships in England and Wales are estimated to have ended in dissolution.

Still Here?

Civil partnerships are now an oddity in law, only open to same-sex couples while marriage is more widely an option.

Attempts to reform that law to open it up to mixed-sex couples failed both during the coalition, when the Conservatives blocked moves by their coalition partners to amend the law, and earlier when the law was being introduced a decade ago and mixed-sex couples were excluded by the then Labour government. A recent court case to extend civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples was rejected on the basis that the decline in registration might mean the institution would be abolished in a few years’ time.

But with Northern Ireland still holding out against same-sex marriage it is unlikely the rate of civil partnerships in the UK will drop to zero for a while yet.