A judge has controversially ruled that Northern Ireland must allow gay couples to adopt children, despite widespread opposition.
Northern Ireland’s health minister, Edwin Poots, has vowed to “urgently appeal” against the ruling, warning that it could hinder further adoption reforms.
An official public consultation into whether to allow gay adoption in Northern Ireland showed that 95 per cent of respondents were opposed to the move.
But the taxpayer-funded Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission took the matter to court, and a judge ruled in their favour last Thursday.
Mr Poots says the ruling has not altered his position or the position of his department.
He said: “It is my intention to urgently appeal this judgment and I am taking this action with a heavy heart.”
He added: “I have already publicly declared my intention to reform Northern Ireland adoption law because reform is much needed and long overdue.
“This judicial review has already delayed plans to introduce a new Adoption and Children Bill in the Assembly and I fear that this will lead to further delay.”
The judge said: “The present legislation essentially entails that a gay or lesbian person must choose between being eligible to adopt, or affirming their relationship in public via a civil partnership ceremony.”
Only married couples and single people, whether heterosexual or homosexual, can presently adopt. Same-sex couples in civil partnerships cannot adopt.
NIHRC Chief Commissioner Professor Michael O’Flaherty welcomed the ruling, commenting that it brings Northern Ireland law “in line with the rest of the UK”.
Joint adoption by homosexual couples was legalised in England and Wales in 2002 and came into force in 2005. The Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 legalised joint adoption by cohabiting heterosexual and homosexual couples in Scotland.
In 2007 the Government held a NI consultation about their proposals to extend joint adoption by homosexuals to Northern Ireland.
The official report of the consultation showed that 95 per cent of respondents did not want the law to change to allow homosexual couples to adopt.