Belfast Telegraph

Gay blood ban: Man 'had sex for money'

By Alan Erwin

A gay man's bid to overturn the lifetime ban on him giving blood in Northern Ireland is a waste of time because he had sex for money, the High Court heard today.

Attorney General John Larkin QC also claimed the challenge to Health Minister Edwin Poots maintaining the prohibition was based on theological "myths".

Northern Ireland is now the only part of the UK which bars homosexual men from making donations.

The complete prohibition, put in place during the 1980s AIDS threat, was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in November 2011.

It was replaced by new rules which allow blood from men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than a year ago. 

The 12-month deferral was left in place following a Government Advisory Committee report.

It identified a much shorter a window period during which infection with blood-borne viruses could not be detected.

Mr Poots has so far maintained the ban in Northern Ireland on the basis of ensuring public safety.

But a gay man who has been granted anonymity due to his perceived vulnerability, is seeking a ruling which would bring Northern Ireland's policy into line with the rest of the UK.

Mr Justice Treacy has heard claims that the Minister has displayed apparent bias which went beyond religious beliefs and into the realms of prejudice.

It was revealed in court that despite the unidentified applicant's sexual orientation, he has become a born-again Christian who now disapproves of homosexual practices.

But Mr Larkin, the chief legal adviser to the Stormont Executive, questioned the legitimacy of the challenge.

He said: "It seems to us there are a number of myths about this case.

"It's not a case about theology, it's not a case about the views that individuals including ministers or departmental officials may or may not have about the morality or immorality of private sexual matters.

"In fact, the only affidavits which deal with theological matters are the applicant's, and the only part which says that homosexual acts are sinful is in the applicant's affidavit."

Under the rules gay and straight men are disqualified from making donations if they have paid for sex.

Based on alleged admissions made by the applicant, Mr Larkin contended: "In many ways your lordship's time is being wasted because this is a young man who cannot give blood because he has exchanged money for sex."

The Attorney General added that he has been informed about other "falls from grace" which meant he would also be banned under the 12-month rule in England.

In a detailed defence of Mr Poots' position, he rejected arguments that it required full Executive approval.

He also took issue with the assertion that the Minister had made a decision on the issue.

Even if it was held that one had been taken to maintain the current position, Mr Larkin claimed that striking it down would have no impact.
Following final submissions Mr Justice Treacy reserved judgment in the case.

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