Today marks the sixth anniversary of the official introduction of civil partnerships in England and Wales.

More than 46,000 civil partnerships have been held since the December 2005, with 18,049 of those taking place in the first year.

Some ceremonies took place before the official date of introduction. Scotland celebrated its first civil partnership on December 20th 2005 due to a misunderstanding over the date.

The first ceremony to take place in England was on 5 December, between Matthew Roche and Christopher Cramp in Worthing, East Sussex. In their case the usual 15-day waiting period was waived as Mr Roche was suffering from a terminal illness. He died the following day.

Earlier this month, the regulations allowing civil partnerships to take place in religious buildings came into effect. For the first time, churches, synagogues, mosques and other institutions will be allowed to apply for perform the ceremonies.

Last week, the House of Lords suppressed a challenge led by Baroness O’Cathain which claimed equality laws mean the new rules could force religious bodies to hold civil ceremonies alongside weddings.

Earlier this year, the government announced next year’s consultation on marriage equality, saying the law should be changed within the lifetime of the current parliament.

But it was six years ago today that three couples entered into civil partnerships at 8am in Brighton; the exact time the legislation came into effect. The first three couples were Rev Debbie Gaston and Elaine Gaston, Gino Meriano and Mike Ullett and Roger Lewis and his partner Keith Willmott-Goodall.

The first celebrity couple to have a civil partnership were Elton John and David Furnish. The couple hosted a banquet reception for 700 guests.

6,385 ceremonies were held last year. In September, figures revealed that gay couples in civil partnerships were less likely to split than married couples.

Data from the Office of National Statistics showed that in the first five years, 5.5 per cent of marriages had ended in divorce but only 2.5 per cent of civil partnerships had been dissolved.