The end of 2014 will mark the passing of an important year in the fight for equality for gay and lesbian couples in the UK.
The first same-sex marriages in England and Wales took place in March of this year after the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 came into effect. A similar law has been introduced in Scotland with the first marriages being expected to occur before the end of 2014.
This development is a necessary and welcome development and reflects the international trend towards granting marriage rights to same sex couples. It is also hoped that it will inspire more countries to introduce similar laws and put pressure on countries like Russia and Uganda who continue to criminalise people for their sexual orientation.
Facts and Figures on Same Sex Marriages in 2014
On the 21st August the Office of National Statistics released the first provisional statistics for same sex marriages from the date when marriages were legalised up until the end of the Q2 period on the 30TH June.
A total of 1,409 marriages were conducted within this period, with the number of ceremonies rising from month to month.
The average age at which men are marrying is 38.6 with woman elected to get married at the slightly earlier age of 37. The age bracket of 30-34 proved to be the most common.
Comparison with Civil Partnerships
Interestingly the majority of couples had not been involved in a civil partnership before (91% for males and 79% of females), which suggests that marital status, rather than legal recognition is an important concern for many same-sex couples.
It should be noted that the initial uptake of gay marriage has been lower than that of the original interest in civil partnerships. However given the gradual increase in those applying for marriage, this situation is likely to be balanced out over time.
Increased Acceptance of Same Sex Marriages
Although same sex marriage is still in its infancy phase, these figures show that same sex couples are quickly taking advantage of the opportunity to have equal status as couples in society.
All the major party leaders welcomed the first ceremonies in March and religious groups are also beginning to be more receptive to the change. Christian organisations have traditionally insisted that the definition of marriage encompassed the union of a man and a wife, yet their firm stance appears to be wavering. As the Bishop of Norwich, the Right Reverend Graham James eloquently put it: ‘It's untidy for the law to have two definitions... but I think we can live with untidiness’.
Therefore it seems like the growth in the number of same sex marriages is likely to continue for some time to come.