On 21 August, the Office of National Statistics, (ONS), released the first provisional statistics for same sex marriage in England and Wales between 29th March, the earlier date on which these marriages could be solemnized under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, and 30th June 2014, which marks the end of Quarter 2. The ONS release provides the following information:
- Number of marriages of same sex couples by month: A total of 1,409 marriages were formed between same sex couples in the period 29 March to 30 June 2014. Of these, 56% of marriages were to female couples (796 marriages) while 44% were to male couples (613 marriages). Over the three day period from 29 March to 31 March 2014 there were 95 marriages of same sex couples. There were 351 marriages in April, 465 in May and 498 in June.
- Average age at marriage for men and women: The average (mean) age at marriage for women was 37.0 years, slightly lower than the male mean age of 38.6 years. There were more women than men marrying at younger ages, particularly at ages 25 to 29 and 30 to 34 where 63% and 60% of those marrying were female. From age 55 slightly more men than women married with the exception of age 65 and over where equal numbers of men and women married. The greatest number of men and women marrying were aged 30 to 34 with 220 and 330 marriages respectively.
- Marital status before marriage: The majority of men and women marrying had never been married or in a civil partnership before (91% of males and 79% of females). Women were more likely than men to have previously been in a civil partnership or marriage that ended in dissolution or divorce (9% of men, 20% of women). A very small percentage of marriages took place for men and women whose previous marriage or civil partnership had ended with the death of their partner (0.5% of men and 0.9% of women).
As lawyers rather than statisticians, we are not in a position to interpret these early figures for same sex marriage, or compare them with the uptake of civil partnership after this had been introduced. However, the basic data indicate:
- The greatest number entering same sex marriage and civil partnerships is within the age range 30 to 34 years old;
- Over the first quarter following the introduction of civil partnerships, two thirds (66%) of partnerships were between males. In contrast, 44% of marriages to same sex couples between 29 March and 30 June 2014 were between males;
- The total number of same sex marriages to date (1,409) is slightly greater than the number of civil partnerships formed between 21 and 23 December 2005, (1,227);
- The number of same sex marriages is increasing steadily month by month.
With regard to the uptake of same sex marriage, the ONS suggests
“[t]he early uptake of marriages of same sex couples is lower than the uptake of civil partnerships, possibly because before the introduction of civil partnerships there was no other option for same sex couples to formalise their relationships.”
However, it could be argued that although there is now the possibility of same sex marriage in England and Wales, latest ONS data indicate that up to the end of 2012, a total of 60,454 civil partnerships had been formed, and until 10 December 2014 none of these nor those formed subsequently will be able to be converted into a same sex marriage. We therefore await the statistics for Q4 with interest.