Brighton and Hove is the same-sex capital of England and Wales, according to the last census, recording a larger proportion of people in same-sex marriages or civil partnerships than any other council area.
The figures, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Wednesday, are the first time a census of England and Wales has detailed the full number of married same-sex couples living in the two countries.
Across England and Wales there were about 402,000 people in legally formalised same-sex relationships in 2021. That compares with 104,942 at the time of the last census, in 2011, at which time same-sex marriages were not performed or recognised in the UK.
There were 3,867 people in Brighton and Hove – equivalent to 1.4% of the population of the area – in same-sex marriages or civil partnerships on census day, 21 March 2021. It was followed by three London boroughs: Lambeth, Islington (both 1% of people in same sex-marriages or civil partnerships) and Southwark (0.9%).
Same-sex marriage was legalised in Great Britain in 2014, and has since taken over from civil partnerships as the main way of legally acknowledging a homosexual union.
A total of 133,618 people across England and Wales (0.1%) were in a same-sex civil partnership in 2021, less than half of the number (268,522 , 0.2%) in a same-sex marriage.
Gay couples were still significantly less likely to have legalised their relationship than opposite-sex couples. More than two-thirds of cohabiting same-sex couples were not married or in a civil partnership, compared with less than a quarter of opposite-sex couples.
Civil partnerships became open to opposite-sex couples in 2019 after a supreme court ruling found that restricting civil partnerships to same-sex couples was discriminatory. In the two years since, 71,592 opposite-sex couples have entered into civil partnerships.
Overall, the proportion of people in legal partnerships has declined since the last census. In 2011, 47% of people were married or in a civil partnership; by 2021 that had dropped to 45%.
The census deputy director, Jon Wroth-Smith, said: “We can see that the proportion of people in a marriage or civil partnership has declined, which follows the long-term trend of declining marriages. Conversely, the number of people who were never married or in a civil partnership has increased by almost 3 million.”
Separate figures from the ONS show the number of divorces in England and Wales increased in 2021, although statisticians cautioned that the figure could be artificially inflated by disruption to family court activities in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic.