AROUND 100 mixed-sex couples have formed civil partnerships in Somerset since they became eligible to do so in December 2019.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show 101 opposite-sex couples formed civil partnerships in Somerset in 2020, alongside one pair on New Year’s Eve in 2019.

They were among over 7,700 couples in England and Wales to have entered civil partnerships by the end of 2020.

Previously, only same-sex couples could enter into civil partnerships but, in June 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court allowed heterosexual couple Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan to form a civil partnership instead of getting married after they argued the law was discriminatory.

The couple did not want to get married because they said marriage has "treated women as property for centuries".

A civil partnership gives couples the same legal rights regarding inheritance, tax, pensions, and next-of-kin arrangements as marriage.

A spokeswoman from the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign group said: "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 dropped since the first legalised gay marriages took place in 2014.

In 2020, 785 took place – the lowest figure since they were introduced in 2005.

An ONS spokesperson 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 seven same-sex civil partnerships in Somerset in 2020 – three between female couples, and four between male couples.

That figure is one fewer than 2019, and the lowest since comparable records began in 2008.

Civil partnerships for same-sex couples in the county peaked in 2013, when there were 54.

There were 671 same-sex civil partnership dissolutions granted in England and Wales in 2020, with 54 per cent of these being for female couples.

On June 1, 2021, mixed-sex couples in Scotland became able to submit a notice of intention to enter into a civil partnership.

There is a 29-day notice period, meaning the first opposite-sex civil partnerships could take place from June 30.