Unequal stats for equal marriage?

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has recently released a new set of demographic data, and following this there has been a huge amount of press around civil partnerships. The press seem obsessed with the divorce rates.


The total number of civil partnerships formed in the UK since the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force in December 2005, up to the end of 2011, is 53,417. In 2011, the number of civil partnerships formed in the UK by same-sex couples was 6,795, compared with 6,385 in 2010.


The number of same-sex couples ending their civil unions leapt by 20 percent last year, seven years after their introduction in 2005. Overall there were 794 dissolutions in 2011 (403 were female couples).


Latest statistics (published December 2012) estimate that 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce. The chance of divorce is highest between 4th and 8th anniversaries.


By the end of 2012 there were 120,908 people in same-sex unions, which is already “much higher” than the Government Equalities Office originally predicted: between 11,000 and 22,000 civil partners in Britain by 2010; there were already more than 79,000 at the start of that year - and now there are 10 times as many.

The Metro report talked about the take up of partnerships being slower than predicted. They were of course only referring to 2012 where 7,000 couples formed, which was 4,000 fewer than the government expected for the year.

To me this is obvious. With equal marriage on the cards, why would you spend all your money on a civil partnership when you could wait for an equal marriage? I expect the 2013 annual figures will be even lower. I also predict a large increase in the number of civil partnership dissolutions taking place if what I have heard is going to happen. 

Initial mumblings are that equal marriage is going to be implemented late next year, however conversions from civil partnerships to marriage are unlikely to be implemented for at least another year. So you can either remain in a civil partnership with fewer rights, or dissolve your partnership and enter into a marriage from next year.

According to ONS, the probability of getting divorced by the next wedding anniversary rises rapidly in the first five years of marriage, so that between the four and eighth wedding anniversaries the probability of getting divorced by the next anniversary is over 3%. After the eighth wedding anniversary, the probability of divorcing decreases from this peak, and by the 26th anniversary, the chance of divorcing by the next anniversary is less than 1%.

The number of civil partnerships in the UK peaked in the first quarter of 2006 at 4,869. The high numbers for 2006 are likely to be a result of many same-sex couples in long-standing relationships taking advantage of the opportunity to formalise their relationship as soon as the legislation was implemented. The number of civil partnerships has since fallen to an average of 1,699 per quarter in 2011.

Given civil partnerships will only have been around for 8 years as of December 2013, it is far too early to be comparing divorce/dissolution stats to heterosexual marriage. It should expected that when the rights to get a civil partnership came in, there would be a few people who would jump in without thinking it through. How many people buy the new iPhone within 24 hours of release without thinking about all the bugs that inevitably need to be fixed! Data can be very useful, but they can also be easily manipulated: use a fixed period, exclude another period, compare two different situations (long terms stats against new). At the end of the day take what you want from them, use them carefully, but decide for yourself.

There is no doubt in my mind that civil partnerships were better than what we had before, and that equal marriage will be a better option than civil partnerships for those that want it. No matter what the stats are for heterosexual marriages and homosexual marriages, the truth is, it allows you to show your love for your partner. Which is all that matters. When you enter your union with your partner, be you homosexual or heterosexual, you go in thinking it is until death do you part.

Statistics are based on a variety of people with very different situations, influences and therefore cannot really be used as a guide.