The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published annual statistics showing how the popularity of civil partnership formations has changed since the introduction of marriages for same-sex couples.
These statistics will be among the considerations taken into account when the Government decides the future of civil partnerships, following the Supreme Court case of R (on the application of Steinfeld and Keidan) v Secretary of State for International Development  UKSC 32.
The key points of the statistical bulletin reveal:
There were 908 civil partnerships formed in England and Wales in 2017, an increase of 2% compared with 2016; this is the second annual increase since the introduction of marriages of same-sex couples was announced in 2013.
Almost two-thirds (66%) of all civil partnerships formed in 2017 were between men.
The increase in the number of civil partnership formations between 2016 and 2017 resulted solely from an 8% rise (23 civil partnerships) in civil partnerships between women. Civil partnership formation among men decreased by 0.8% (five civil partnerships).
More than half (51%) of those entering a civil partnership in 2017 were aged 50 years and over; this compares with 19% in 2013, prior to the introduction of marriages of same-sex couples.
In 2017, the average age of men forming a civil partnership (50.3 years) was higher than for women (49.5 years).
London continued to be the most popular region for the formation of civil partnerships; 37% of all formations in England and Wales in 2017 took place in London.
There were 1,217 civil partnership dissolutions granted in England and Wales in 2017, of these 57% were to female couples.
Nicola Haines, Vital Statistics Outputs Branch, ONS, said:
‘Despite the introduction of marriages for same-sex couples in March 2014, the number of same-sex couples choosing to form civil partnerships has increased slightly for the second consecutive year. Almost two-thirds of couples entering into a civil partnership in 2017 were male and more than half of all civil partners were aged 50 years or above. However, our latest data on marriages from 2015 shows that male couples accounted for less than half of all marriages between same-sex couples while only 16% of those marrying a partner of the same-sex were aged 50 and over.’
‘It is very encouraging that there has been a 2% increase in uptake in 2017 as there has been strong inference from Government that abolishment of civil partnerships is a real option moving forward. At a time where family law reform is desperately needed to suit modern society, this is a very troubling stance from the Government. An increase in uptake reinforces the point that civil partnerships are a necessary and preferred route of relationship status for many couples and numbers would inevitably increase, potentially significantly, if heterosexual couples had this as an option.
The argument in favour of abolishment has come under attack in Parliament through Tim Loughton MP’s private members bill which calls for a systematic assessment of the current situation, with a view to rectifying the current discrimination felt by heterosexual couples. An increase in uptake is of course further evidence that expansion of rights is the way forward. The right approach has always been one that places equality of treatment at the forefront of the debate. This is an important family law issue which requires attention and significant reform.’