Law stopping NI gay couples adopting is challenged

John Larkin QC The Attorney General, John Larkin QC, will represent the Department of Health in the case

Gay couples in NI are denied the chance to adopt children because of outdated legislation, the High Court has heard.

The Human Rights Commission oppose a bid to delay a legal challenge with potential significance for unmarried and civil partnership couples.

Judicial review proceedings have been brought in an attempt to introduce new laws to bring NI into line with the rest of the UK.

The commission claims the current arrangements here are discriminatory.

It is backed in its case by a lesbian woman who wants her partner to be allowed to adopt her biological son.

The couple are also seeking to be allowed to jointly adopt another child.

A lawyer for the commission drew a distinction between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom as she opposed a bid to delay the legal challenge to the current adoption legislation.

Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin is set to represent the respondent, the Department of Health, in the case.

David McMillen QC, who is appearing alongside Mr Larkin, today sought an adjournment of the three-day hearing listed for next month.

Mr McMillen based his application on the unresolved status of other related cases currently before the European Court of Human Rights.

He told Mr Justice Treacy: "This case is of great importance to both sides.

"It is very important that both sides are able to put forward the entirety of the legal framework expounded by the European Court."

'Breach'

Opposing the adjournment application, Monye Anyadike-Danes QC, for the Human Rights Commission, said Northern Ireland was the only part of the UK without laws allowing same-sex couples to adopt together.

She told the court a bill scheduled for consideration last year failed to progress, leaving "elderly" adoption legislation in place.

"That means, so far as the commission is concerned, there is an ongoing breach and there are actual applicants and would-be applicants that are affected by the state of the law as it currently stands," the barrister said.

Ms Anyadike-Danes argued that the cases being dealt with at Strasbourg dealt with a different legal point.

She said that civil partnership couples in Northern Ireland could not adopt either together or individually.

The barrister also requested permission to put in further evidence in reply to any fresh papers lodged by the respondent.

Explaining her reason, she said it was "in case what happens is a lot of research to support the idea that for some reason children shouldn't be adopted into gay families because they are less stable".

Refusing to put off the case, Mr Justice Treacy indicated there was no way of knowing when the European judgments would be given.

He added: "For all I know it could be another six months, another year before these decisions."

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