Statistics published on 20 October 2015 reveal the number of same-sex marriages that took place in England and Wales between the implementation of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (the 2013 Act) and 30 June 2015 – and with them comes the distinct sense that ‘happily ever after’ could well be on the cards.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has confirmed that over 15,000 couples have legally married since 29 March 2014. Out of the 7,366 that were marriages in their own right, 55% (4,059) were between female couples and 45% (3,307) were between men. Following the introduction of marriages between same-sex couples in 2014, the number of civil partnerships formed in England and Wales has witnessed a significant 70% decrease, from 5,646 in 2013 to 1,683 in 2014. However, in the 94 days following 10 December 2014 (when legal civil partnership conversion commenced), 5,078 civil partnerships were converted into a marriage, with a total of 7,732 couples choosing to convert from existing civil partnerships to full, legal marriages between December 2014 and 30 June 2015.
Further population figures estimated by marital status indicate that on 30 June 2014 there were 115,380 civil partners living in England and Wales. Accordingly, it is possible to estimate that, by 30 June 2015, around 13% of civil partners had chosen to convert their relationship into a marriage.
As we all know, after love and marriage there often comes a baby (carriage optional in our 21st-century society; a papoose may be more appropriate), and the increase in number of same-sex marriages brings with it a sense of security for couples looking to parent a child. Speaking to the BBC, Teresa Millward, who married her partner Helen Brearley on the same day same-sex marriage became legal, explained the ease of becoming a parent since the 2013 Act was passed: ‘Helen automatically became the second parent rather than having to do anything complicated with documents ... it means if anything happens to me she has the same rights as I do as a mum’. Adoption by same-sex couples numbers are also on the rise: figures from children’s charity CoramBAAF show that, during the year ending 31 March 2014, 7% (340) of children awaiting adoption were adopted by same-sex couples in a civil partnership or otherwise – an increase on the 6% (240) of children in 2013.
Altogether, the figures above paint a fascinating and optimistic image of happy families existing in a cooperative world of equality and understanding. Long may this picture hang in pride of place above society’s mantelpiece.