The High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland has ruled that same-sex couples must be allowed to adopt. In Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s Application (for judicial review),  NIQB 77, the court held that a government policy restricting adoption to married couples violated the European Convention on Human Rights. A previous ruling by the House of Lords had found that the absolute exclusion of all unmarried couples was unlawful, but the Human Rights Commission had difficulty in requiring the government to comply with that decision.
The case was brought on behalf of a lesbian couple who wished to both adopt and enter into a civil partnership. In a particularly perverse twist, the Northern Ireland rule excluded persons in a civil partnership (a status open only to gay couples) from adopting either as a couple or as individuals, when persons in other unmarried couples were allowed to adopt as individuals. The court found that the best interests of the child must be given priority:
Issues related to the sexual orientation, lifestyle, race, religion or other characteristics of the parties…cannot be allowed to prevail over what is in the best interests of the child.
The new decision brings Northern Ireland adoption law into line with the rest of the United Kingdom.