Saturday, 23 August 2014

Equal Marriage: recent developments

The Office of National Statistics recently answered this question: How many marriages of same sex couples have been formed in England and Wales so far?

ONS looks at the first provisional statistics between 29th March and 30th June 2014.

This is the first time that ONS has published provisional statistics on marriage of same sex couples for England and Wales. These statistics cover quarters 1 and 2, 2014. The Marriages (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 made provision for the marriage of same sex couples in England and Wales, either in a civil ceremony (in a register office or approved premise such as a hotel) or on religious premises (provided that the religious organisation agrees). The first marriages of same sex couples took place on 29 March 2014. From 10 December 2014 civil partners are expected to be able to convert their civil partnership into a marriage.

How many marriages have been formed between same sex couples?

A total of 1,409 marriages were formed between same sex couples between 29 March and 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 (Figure 1).

And there is a lot more detail on the sex, age, etc. of the couples.

Law & Religion UK provided some further analysis and comment: Same sex marriage statistics: 2014, Q1 & Q2 which includes:

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.

And the same site had earlier provided an update on Civil partnership conversion to same-sex marriage: religious content which, in addition to dealing with the subject contained in the article title, includes the following observation (emphasis added):

From the legal point of view, the conversion process is essentially an interim measure directed at couples who entered into civil partnerships between its introduction in 2005 and the availability of same-sex marriage in 2014. Nevertheless, within this period a significant number of civil partnerships have been formed: latest data from ONS indicate that since the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force in December 2005, there were 60,454 civil partnerships up to the end of 2012, i.e. 120,908 civil partners, an order of magnitude greater than the 11,000 to 22,000 civil partners estimated in the regulatory impact assessment. The ONS is currently examining the trends in civil partnerships, how marriages to same sex couples will change the statistics, and how this might best be reported, here and here.

With regard to the conversion process, government priorities appear to be: meeting the 10 December 2014 deadline; and reflecting the responses in its 2012 consultation. The delay caused by the withdrawal of the draft statutory instrument, and the potential complications associated with the introduction of a religious element are likely to limit the changes that may be introduced at this late stage. Furthermore, the potentially large number of couples wishing to convert their civil partnerships to same sex marriages may also preclude changing the proposed procedure unless present resources are augmented2.
2 There were ~183,000 civil marriage ceremonies in 2012, ONS data.

So, to consider a possible scenario, if around 50% of all extant Civil Partnerships were converted in the six month period from December, that would be an increase from around 500 a month to around 5,000 a month. And an additional 30,000 same-sex marriages on top of (say) 90,000 heterosexual marriages. Which is quite a large temporary fluctuation.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 23 August 2014 at 5:15pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation

"A total of 1,409 marriages were formed between same sex couples between 29 March and 30 June 2014. Of these, 56% of marriages were to female couples (796 marriages) while 44% were to male couples (613 marriages)."

Does ONS use the same rather bizarre language as to heterosexual marriages?

Jack and Jill "formed a marriage"?

The "marriage was to" Susan and Bill?

Or are these expressions reserved for same-sex couples?

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 23 August 2014 at 9:30pm BST

At this rate the C of E's current position will become unsustainable. It will only take a few more clergy brave enough to defy the current threat of being being ostracised for the Bishops to have to cave in.

I await the 10th December with interest.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Saturday, 23 August 2014 at 9:42pm BST

The Marriage Canon of the Canadian Church is currently under review in terms of same sex marriage. The process has institutional anxiety written all over it, but at least the issue is being pursued. Expatriate Canucks across the pond may wish to make a submission.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 24 August 2014 at 3:54am BST

I agree with Concerned Anglican. Interesting that Welby has here played a relatively subtler game in leaving it to individual bishops to decide what to do.

Posted by: John on Sunday, 24 August 2014 at 10:04am BST

I love the phrase 'institutional anxiety', although for the CofE 'panic' might be more appropriate.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Sunday, 24 August 2014 at 2:20pm BST

"Expatriate Canucks across the pond may wish to make a submission."

Just to clarify, submissions are invited from communicants of the Anglican Church of Canada. It's possible some expats remain on the rolls of their parishes at home but I suspect that most have parish affiliations where they live.

Posted by: Geoff on Monday, 25 August 2014 at 7:19am BST

An interesting question is what has happened to the numbers of civil partnerships. In 2012 (last year for which statistics are currently available) there were exactly 2000 in the corresponding period. If people are still entering into CPs in any reasonable numbers, then the eventual case for the extension of CPs to opposite sex couples will be strong. On the other hand, if CP numbers collapse, then there will be pressure to discontinue them altogether. Either way, a lose-lose situation for the current position taken by the C of E.

Posted by: Turbulent priest on Monday, 25 August 2014 at 7:59am BST

"If people are still entering into CPs in any reasonable numbers, then the eventual case for the extension of CPs to opposite sex couples will be strong."

There is no case, outside the chattering classes, for the extension of CPs to different-sex couples. The whole point about CPs was that they were marriage in all but name: Labour, for bad but understandable reasons, didn't fancy the fight with the CofE that it's actually much easier for the Tories to have. Labour would have been accused of militant atheism, which is a much harder accusation to make stick against the Tories. Labour is also much more worried about the opinion of mosque committees than the Tories.

CPs give the same rights, plus or minus, as marriage. The only reason to have a CP rather than a civil marriage is because you don't like the word "marriage", and the law should not trouble itself with nomenclature: the essence of the relationship is precisely the same. The argument that there should be some legal structure for, say, co-habiting siblings is not an argument for CPs as constituted, as the prohibited degrees apply.

As I've said before, if people are that hung up about the word "marriage", they can just get a civil marriage and call it something else when they tell their friends. Let's not waste parliamentary time for a trivial nomenclature issue that most people grow out of.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 25 August 2014 at 10:08am BST

RE Turbulent priest's observation that "(e)ither way, a lose-lose situation for the current position taken by the C of E;" this is hardly the first time for that. But they'll do as they've always done: pretend it ain't so, and ignore reality until a new bench of bishops feels the "new" state of affairs can safely be mentioned obliquely, although without daring to suggest a change to the canons that might offend hardliners long dead.

Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC on Monday, 25 August 2014 at 4:08pm BST

The sheer number of Same Sex Marriages must surely cause the hierarchy of the National Church to re-consider its policy towards such persons? The alternative is to ignore them, thus occasioning more questioning of the pastoral role of the Church.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 10:09pm BST
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