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Civil partnerships up in region as review that might scrap them nears
12:00am Wednesday 9th October 2013 in News
THE number of civil partnerships has crept up across the region – ahead of a review that could see the unions scrapped.
Official figures showed that 275 gay and lesbian couples tied the knot last year, a small increase on the 272 who entered into partnerships in 2011.
There were significant falls in some areas, including in County Durham (from 41 to 32), Darlington (from 11 to eight), Middlesbrough (from 15 to ten) and York (from 36 to 26).
But the number of partnerships rose in Stockton-on-Tees (from nine to 14), Sunderland (from 12 to 20), Newcastle (from 40 to 47) and across North Yorkshire (from 70 to 78).
The figures were released ahead of a 12-week public consultation that could see civil partnerships abolished – or even extended to opposite-sex couples.
David Cameron was forced to concede the review in the summer, during the furore over the Bill to legalise gay marriages, which will go ahead from next year.
The prime minster struck a deal with Labour to save the legislation, after Ed Miliband joined Tory rebels in arguing for men and women to be allowed civil partnerships.
Such a move would trigger complicated, and hugely expensive, pension and other rights, ministers claimed – costing up to £4bn and forcing a two-year delay.
As a result, the department for culture, media and sport (DCMS) will launch the consultation within the next few weeks, before making a decision in late 2014.
Back in the summer, a Government source said of the review: “How civil partnerships work and whether they continue to exist - the whole thing will be up for grabs.”
The statistics show that, in both the North-East and North Yorkshire, partnerships are more popular with lesbian couples than with gay men.
The number of partnerships dissolved, in England and Wales, leapt by 20 per cent last year – to 794 – but no figures were provided for each local authority.
Around 60,000 ceremonies have been conducted in the UK since legalisation in 2005, giving same-sex couples the same property and tax rights as traditional marriages.
If civil partnerships were abolished, people who had already entered into the unions would not see them annulled, but no more would take place in future.
Any move to abolish them would be certain to run into opposition - for example, among lesbians, some of whom do not want to get married.
A DCMS spokeswoman said: “A 12-week public consultation into the future of civil partnerships will start by the end of this year, which will also look at whether to extend them to opposite-sex couples.”
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