NI gay couples 'denied' adoption chance
22 Nov 2011
Gay couples in Northern Ireland are being denied the chance to adopt children because of outdated legislation, the High Court has heard.
A lawyer for the Human Rights Commission drew a distinction between the rest of the United Kingdom as she opposed a bid to delay a legal challenge with potentially major significance for unmarried and civil partnership couples.
Judicial review proceedings have begun in an attempt to introduce new laws to bring Northern Ireland into line with England, Scotland and Wales.
The Commission claims the current arrangements in the region are discriminatory and breach human rights.
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.
Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin is set to represent the respondent Department of Health in the case.
David McMillen QC, who is appearing alongside Mr Larkin, sought on Friday 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."
Opposing the adjournment application, Monye Anyadike-Danes QC for the Human Rights Commission, said Northern Ireland was the only part of the United Kingdom 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 judgements would be given.
He added: "For all I know it could be another six months, another year before these decisions."