Ban on gay couples adopting children in Ulster is removed
Gay and lesbian couples in Northern Ireland may now apply to adopt children in the same way heterosexual couples can, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Until now single homosexual people could apply for adoption –but couples in a gay relationship were prohibited from doing so.
The move brings Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK where gay couples are already allowed to adopt.
Gavin Boyd, an education equality officer from the Rainbow Project who also works for Cara-friend, called it a landmark ruling. He said: "Many many gay couples across Northern Ireland have waited so long for this and it will make a profound difference to their lives."
He added the ruling was one step on a road to equality, saying there was "still a long way to go".
"It could take a long time before we get to a place where all citizens, regardless of their sexuality are afforded dignity and equality."
On June 27, the Court of Appeal upheld a claim by the NI Human Rights Commission that the ban on gay adoption was in breach of human rights legislation.
This helped pave the way for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland to adopt.
The Department of Health, headed by DUP MLA Edwin Poots – who was strongly opposed gay and lesbian people adopting children – mounted a challenge to the decision in the Supreme Court.
But judges ruled that the application failed to meet the criteria of raising an arguable point of law of public importance.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "Following the Court of Appeal judgment in June 2013, unmarried couples (including same sex couples) and those in a civil partnership arrangement may apply to adopt. The final decision regarding the granting of an adoption order will lie with the court."
The DUP minister reiterated his views in the Assembly last month.
The minister has also faced criticism in recent times for his stance on gay men donating blood.
Mr Poots said his stance on the matter referred only to the safety of the blood and based on sexual behaviour, not sexual orientation.
The UK-wide ban on gay men donating blood began in the 1980s. In November 2011 the ban was lifted in Great Britain, allowing men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than a year ago to give blood.