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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 21 October, 2014

Court ruling paves way for NI same sex couples to adopt

A court has overturned a challenge by Minister Edwin Poots, who took issue with an earlier ruling to lift an adoption ban.

Image: Mother holding the hand of her son via Shutterstock

THE COURT OF Appeal in Northern Ireland has paved the way for gay and lesbian couples to adopt children, after it dismissed a challenge by Health Minister Edwin Poots.

Poots’ Department had launched the bid after an earlier decision by Belfast High Court, which ruled that a ban on same sex couples adopting introduced in 1987 was unlawful.

Current laws in NI mean a single gay or lesbian person can be allowed to adopt children, but couples in civil partnerships are not allowed to do so.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has welcomed the ruling, with Chief Commissioner Professor Michael O’Flaherty stating:

Through this case the Commission has protected basic human rights and the best interests of the child.

For children who are in need of a family in Northern Ireland, the importance of this case in widening the pool of prospective parents cannot be overstated.

The Court ruled that preventing someone from even being considered to adopt because of their relationship status amounted to “a discriminatory practice”.

Today’s decision brings the law in Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK. Moves to allow same sex couples to adopt had been on hold in Stormont as the court action took place.

Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots (Image: Paul Faith/PA Archive/Press Association Images)

Speaking last year as he launched the appeal, Minister Poots – an evangelical Protestant opposed to gay partnerships – said he was doing so with a “heavy heart” as the ruling was against the “best interests of children”.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, the NI Department of Health may launch a further legal challenge, with a barrister for the department indicating an appeal to the Supreme Court could be on the cards.

Read: Northern Ireland’s ban on gay and unmarried adoption overturned >

Read: US Boy Scouts maintain ban on gay members and leaders >

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