MORE same-sex couples got married in Dudley in 2022 than before the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.

It comes as more same-sex marriages took place across England and Wales than in any year since it became legalised in 2014.

Campaign group Out4Marriage said the rapid growth rate of same-sex marriage illustrates why legalising it "was so important".

Office for National Statistics data, which was published during Pride month, shows 33 same-sex couples married in Dudley in 2022 – up from 27 in 2019.

Same-sex marriage was legalised in 2014, with the number of couples nationally getting married steadily rising since then, including 7,800 in 2022, the largest figure on record and more than 10% higher than any other year.

Benjamin Cohen, co-founder of Out4Marriage, said: "Far from devaluing the institution of marriage as some opponents claimed at the time, same-sex marriage has enhanced and preserved the institution of marriage in our country."

The ONS data also showed those who did marry continued to do so later and later.

In 2022, the median first-time marital age for men and women in opposite-sex relationships was 32.7 and 31.2 years old respectively, the highest figures since records began in 1846.

The Marriage Foundation, a national charity that advocates for marriage as the best arrangement for all couples, said these figures undermine marriage.

Harry Benson, research director at the Marriage Foundation, questioned the role it plays in political discourse, with the three-year average from 2020 to 2022 still lagging well behind pre-pandemic levels.

He said: "The public messaging from our political class is that marriage doesn’t matter. It’s now a decade since any cabinet minister mentioned marriage in a major speech, and none of the three established parties have anything to say about marriage in their manifesto."

Meanwhile, cohabiting before marriage was more popular than ever, with nine in 10 married couples doing so in 2021 and 2022, the highest figures since records began in 1994.

The Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign said this shows civil partnerships are a "viable alternative" to marriage, and questioned whether the Government and other institutions support them.

In Dudley, 960 opposite-sex marriages took place in 2022 – up from 859 in 2019.