The law previously only allowed individuals and straight married couples to adopt children in Northern Ireland. This meant that gay and lesbian people could apply to adopt as an individual but same-sex couples, including those in committed civil partnerships, could not.
Health Minister Edwin Poots had previously campaigned against adoption rights for gay and unmarried couples. His most recent challenge in June 2013 was dismissed by the UK Supreme Court. A petition to have him removed from his post has gathered over 10,000 signatures on Avaaz.org
Research carried out by the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Family Research found that children of gay and lesbian parents experience the same quality of life as those with heterosexual parents. The study also said “there was no evidence” to suggest that children’s masculine or feminine tendencies are affected by having homosexual parents, adding weight to the widely held notion that sexuality is inherent and not learned.
Professor Susan Golombok, co-author of the report, said: “What I don’t like is when people make assumptions that a certain type of family, such as gay fathers, will be bad for children. The anxieties about the potentially negative effects for children of being placed with gay fathers seem to be, from our study, unfounded.”
The Court of Appeal in Belfast ruled that because the ban was based on relationship status, it was discriminatory towards those in civil partnerships and so a breach of gay couples’ human rights. The lifting of this ban means same-sex couples will now be able to start a family in Northern Ireland via adoption.