May 7, 2024

ONS civil partnership figures for 2022 show increase from 2021

Nearly 6K opposite-sex couples registered their civil partnership during 2021, despite covid restrictions affecting register offices in the first part of the year. In total 6879 civil partnerships were registered in England and Wales, according to figures released by the ONS on 29 February 2024, an increase of 2.2% on 2021.  84% , 5760, of these were accounted for by opposite-sex couples, increased from 5692 in 2021.

The figures highlight the need that the introduction of opposite-sex civil partnerships has filled. Around half of the couples registering their civil partnership in 2022 were over 55 years of age, suggesting that these relationships are of longstanding with the partners having waited until they could enter the legal relationship of their choice. With around 50% of individuals having previously been married and divorced, it appears that civil partnerships are increasingly seen as a fresh option with none of the historic accumulated baggage and assumptions of marriage.

The increase in couples taking up the option of an opposite-sex civil partnership is particularly note-worthy, given that Covid restrictions in 2022 both limited the number of registrations earlier in the year and focused register offices on clearing their backlog of previous bookings when restrictions were lifted. Research by the Equal Civil Partnership campaign has shown that a very high number – over 70% – of couples choosing an opposite-sex civil partnership want the simple statutory registration – in a working office with only two witnesses and no vows being exchanged. Whilst all local authorities must offer this option, the availability is at their discretion with many register offices severely restricting times and dates as a cost-saving exercise.

‘Since the first registrations on 31st December 2019 to the end of 2022, 19,185 couples have been able to secure the financial and legal security that a civil partnership brings’, comments Martin Loat OBE, Chair of the Equal Civil Partnership campaign. ‘That is nearly 40,000 adults – and their families – who would probably have chosen to continue cohabiting rather than wed. We are delighted that we have been able to give them this security – and the pleasure of enjoying the relationship of their choice. We will continue to advocate for civil partnerships as they become an established choice for couples. We also call upon register offices to treat couples wanting a civil partnership fairly and not to make them wait longer simply because they tend not to want to buy costly ceremonies or hire local authority venues.’

The campaign group also continues to highlight the legal anomaly whereby same-sex couples in a civil partnership are able to convert their relationship to marriage whereas opposite-sex couples, married prior to the 2019 bill, are unable to convert to civil partnerships. ‘We know from our supporters that many couples felt forced into marriage for the sake of legal protections despite their own beliefs and values’, says Martin Loat,  ‘and they long to convert their relationship to the one of their own choice. With the passing of the bill in 2019, the Government promised that this anomaly would be quickly resolved but five years have passed with no resolution in sight.’

The Equal Civil Partnership campaign continues to support couples in their quest to enjoy the legal relationship and registration of it which is right for them. One popular service offered by the campaign group is a ‘Witness database’ which can provide a couple with like-minded witnesses. This has been particularly welcomed for statutory registrations.