Senior judges in Northern Ireland this week paved the way for same sex and unmarried couples to adopt children. The North’s department of health failed in their bid to get a landmark ruling overturned by The Court of Appeal, however a further challenge is set to go ahead in London’s Supreme Court, reports the Irish Times.
At present, a single gay or lesbian person can adopt a child in Northern Ireland, but a couple in civil partnership cannot. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is seeking to force a legislative change to bring adoption laws in the North into line with the rest of the UK. In England, Scotland and Wales, unmarried couples can apply to adopt irrespective of sexual orientation.
The challenge to existing legislation was mounted by the NIHRC, and backed by an unidentified lesbian woman who is seeking to adopt her partner’s child after four years together.
Attorney General John Larkin QC appealed against the High Court ruling, arguing that the current criteria is “lawful, appropriate, and in the best interests of children”, while Lord Justice Garvin stated : “ The department has put forward no justification to exclude same sex couples as parties eligible to adopt as a couple.” He continued “This cannot provide a rational basis or justification for the differential treatment of those in a civil partnership compared to same sex couples outside a civil partnership.”
The Judge also expressed regret that until recently the Department’s website had failed to give correct advice on the issue.” If it is to avoid being misleading, Departmental guidance must take account of the effect of the law as it currently stands.”
Following confirmation that the challenge had been dismissed, there was indication by a barrister for the Department that a further appeal to the Supreme court would be sought.
Chief Commissioner for the NIHRC, Professor Michael O’Flaherty applauded this move forward stating “The Court has agreed with the Commission that preventing someone from even being considered to adopt because of their relationship status is discriminatory practice.”
In a week that has seen great changes with the Defense Of Marriage Act ruled as an unconstitutional violation of the Fifth Amendment, it seems that civil rights movements in the U.S continue to give support, and inspire across the pond and beyond.