Civil Partnerships: an unlikely resurgence?

There were 890 civil partnerships formed in England and Wales in 2016, an increase of 3.4% compared with 2015; this is the first annual increase since the introduction of marriages of same-sex couples was announced in 2013.

It is still a long way down from the peak in 2006 when nearly 15,000 couples registered their partnership.

More than two-thirds (68%) of all civil partnerships formed in 2016 were between men, the highest proportion since their introduction in 2005, reports the Office for National Statistics.

Almost half (49%) of those entering a civil partnership in 2016 were aged 50 or above; this compares with 19% in 2013, prior to the introduction of marriages of same-sex couples.

Why is civil partnership as a choice for registering your coupledom back on the rise? It may just be a natural year-on-year variation. The age gap is an interesting factor – it suggests to us that younger people in same-sex couples are now marrying, but perhaps whether for religious or social reasons older bi and gay people are still opting away from an institution that can carry a lot of sexist and heterosexist baggage.  There also seems to be some gender bias with male couples more likely to register a civil partnership and female couples more likely to marry.

The expectation that demand for civil partnerships would simply vanish once marriage was an option – given by Conservative politicians as the reason to block the proposal for mixed-sex civil partnerships put forward by their then coalition partners in the Liberal Democrats – has yet to come to pass.

1,313 civil partnerships were dissolved in the same time though, so there is perhaps a slow trend toward civil partnerships being a thing of the past.

The new statistics also show that civil partnerships are a very London thing – 38% of all those registered across England and Wales were in London.