Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Lesbian couple's relationship plans put on hold by Northern Ireland's gay adoption ban, court hears

A lesbian woman seeking to raise a child with her partner has had their relationship plans put on hold by the ban on gay and unmarried couples adopting in Northern Ireland, the Court of Appeal heard today.

Senior judges were told she has the victim status required for a legal challenge to the current prohibition.

In October last year the High Court held that the current ban was unlawful.

The landmark ruling found that it discriminated against those in civil partnerships and breached their human rights.

Mr Justice Treacy held that excluding some would-be parents solely on their relationship status narrowed the pool of potential adopters and could not be in the best interests of children.

His verdict came in a legal challenge mounted by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

The body is seeking to force a legislative change to bring adoption laws into line with the rest of the UK.

Unmarried couples in England, Scotland and Wales can apply jointly to be considered for adoption, irrespective of sexual orientation.

But anyone unmarried in Northern Ireland is currently only eligible for consideration as an individual.

Those in civil partnerships cannot apply either individually or as a couple.

But the Department of Health is now seeking to overturn the High Court decision.

The Stormont government's chief legal adviser, Attorney General John Larkin QC, argued that the current position is regarded as being in children's best interests.

Proceedings have centred on the blanket ban imposed on same-sex and unmarried couples by the Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order 1987.

The Commission was backed by an unidentified lesbian woman who wants to be able to adopt her partner's biological child.

The couple, who have been in a relationship for four years, also wish to enter a civil partnership. 

Monye Anyadike-Danes QC, for the Commission, contended that the woman's situation gave her victim status.

"The difficulty she faces is that these two things are not necessarily compatible," the barrister said.

A sworn statement from the woman set out how she wants the civil partnership so the couple can show their commitment.

But her research led to the realisation of the consequences for any potential adoption.

"If my partner and I enter a civil partnership we are not only being prevented from adopting but also excluded as an individual applicant," she said.

Ms Anyadike-Danes described as "morally bankrupt" any suggestion that the woman should adopt first and then go through with the civil partnership.

The barrister added: "She is in the unhappy position of actually not knowing what she should do.

"Something as personal as whether you enter this committed legal relationship with her partner or not.

"She really is on hold as regards to that."

The hearing continues.

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