Dozens of Bedford residents have opposite-sex civil partnerships since law passed
Previously, only same-sex couples could enter into civil partnerships
Dozens of people in Bedford have formed mixed-sex civil partnerships since they first became eligible to do so, figures show.
Since December 2019, the law has enabled eligible opposite-sex couples to form a civil partnership - and the first of these in England and Wales took place on December 31 that year.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show 18 opposite-sex couples in Bedford formed civil partnerships in 2020.
They were among over 7,700 couples to have done so by the end of 2020.
Previously, only same-sex couples could enter into civil partnerships, but in June 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that this was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The court allowed heterosexual couple Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan to have a civil partnership instead of a marriage, after they argued that the law was discriminatory.
A spokeswoman from the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign group said the coronavirus pandemic meant 2020 was not the ideal first year for mixed-sex civil partnerships that was hoped for.
She added: "We are encouraged that over 15,000 people in England and Wales were able to form the legal and life relationship of their choice, ensuring security for themselves during a health crisis.
"Given the problems facing couples in 2020 when civil partnerships were not allowed to go ahead at all – or with so many restrictions that many couples decided to wait – we don't know how many more civil partnerships might otherwise have been formed."
The popularity of same-sex civil partnerships across England and Wales has plummeted since the first legalised gay marriages took place in 2014.
In 2020, just 785 took place – the lowest figure since they were introduced in 2005.
An ONS spokesman said: "There were almost ten times as many partnerships between opposite-sex couples than same-sex couples in 2020.
“Same-sex civil partnerships in England reached a record low in 2020 and may have been driven by the pandemic restrictions, where registrations services were temporarily suspended.”
There were no same-sex civil partnerships in Bedford in 2020.
The total number was down from three in 2019 – and the lowest since comparable records began in 2008.
Civil partnerships for gay couples in the area peaked in 2012, when there were 17.
There were 671 same-sex civil partnership dissolutions granted in England and Wales in 2020, with 54% of these to female couples.