No place in Mr Poots’s garden for Adam and Steve or Ellen and Eve

Opinion: Northern Ireland system allows minister to dictate law in defiance of the courts

Edwin Poots: following what he believes to be the natural order. Photograph: Kate Geraghty

Edwin Poots: following what he believes to be the natural order. Photograph: Kate Geraghty

Thu, Nov 14, 2013, 01:01

I don’t know a couple called Adam and Steve but I know a woman who knows a couple called Ellen and Eve. Maybe one of this pair is the lesbian who the Supreme Court in London has ruled has the right to adopt her partner’s biological child. Not that the ruling means that she will automatically be able to exercise her right: this is Northern Ireland, after all, and the relevant minister is Edwin Poots.

In June, the North’s Court of Appeal accepted the argument made on the woman’s behalf by the NI Commission on Human Rights that legislation preventing adoption by civil partners breaches the European Convention on Human Rights and is therefore illegal. Health minister Poots appealed the decision. Last month, the Supreme Court dismissed his grounds for appeal.

Poots reacted to this development in the Assembly on Tuesday: “It is with disappointment that I note that the request for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court has been refused.

“I am currently carefully considering the implications for the Adoption and Children Bill, which is currently being drafted and which I intend to introduce in the Assembly next year.”

It might be thought that the implications of the ruling for adoption law need little consideration. The meaning is clear. There is no further avenue of appeal. But Poots is not a man to be daunted by such circumstance. He offered the Assembly no commitment to implement the ruling, but did take the opportunity to explain his thinking on the underlying issue: “When it comes to adoption, I’ve just come from an MLU [midwifery lead unit] in Lagan Valley today and all of the people that were giving birth in that unit were women and all of those women would not have been impregnated by another woman.

“The natural order – whether one believes in God or whether one believes in evolution – is for a man and a woman to have a child and therefore that has made my views on adoption very clear and on raising children very clear, that it should be a man and a woman that raises a child.”

It might be noted in passing that Poots holds that belief in God is incompatible with acceptance of evolution. Of more immediate relevance is the fact that he believes that Ellen and Eve’s relationship subverts the natural order and, implicitly, that the natural order trumps the law – British law, European law, any earthly law.


‘Irrational’
Poots is on a bad run as far as court rulings are concerned. On the 11th of last month, the High Court in Belfast described his maintenance of a lifetime ban on gay men donating blood as “irrational” and in breach of the ministerial code applying to all members of the Executive.

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