Is Northern Ireland’s adoption policy discriminatory?

Gay fathersThe Belfast Telegraph yesterday decided to revisit the issue of adoption in Northern Ireland. It points out an interesting dichotomy of the Stormont Amendments to Articles 14 and 15 of the Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 as amended (see red) in 2005 to take account of The Civil Partnership Act 2004.

Adoption by a Married Couple

14.—(1) An adoption order shall not be made on the application of more than one person except in the circumstances specified in paragraphs (2) and (3).

(2) An adoption order may be made on the application of a married couple where both the husband and the wife have attained the age of 21 years.

(3) An adoption order may be made on the application of a married couple where—

(a)the husband or the wife—

(i)is the father or mother of the child; and

(ii)has attained the age of 18 years;

and

(b)his or her spouse has attained the age of 21 years.

(4) An adoption order shall not be made on the application of a married couple unless at least one of them is domiciled in a part of the United Kingdom, or in any of the Channel Islands or in the Isle of Man.

Adoption by a single person

15.—(1) An adoption order may be made on the application of one person where he has attained the age of 21 years and—

(a)is not married or a civil partner, or

(b)is married and the court is satisfied that—

(i)his spouse cannot be found, or

(ii)the spouses have separated and are living apart, and the separation is likely to be permanent, or

(ii)his spouse is by reason of ill-health, whether physical or mental, incapable of making an application for an adoption order.

2) An adoption order shall not be made on the application of one person unless he is domiciled in a part of the United Kingdom, or in any of the Channel Islands or in the Isle of Man.

(3) An adoption order shall not be made on the application of the mother or father of the child alone unless the court is satisfied that—

(a)the other natural parent is dead or cannot be found or, by virtue of section 28 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (disregarding subsections (5A) to (5I) of that section), there is no other parent, or

(b)there is some other reason justifying the exclusion of the other natural parent,

and where such an order is made the reason justifying the exclusion of the other natural parent shall be recorded by the court.

So lets take the example of two individuals:

Mark aged (35) is a gay man who in 2005 got civil partnered to his lover of the past 5 years Peter (36). They live in Antrim and are a consultant and Antrim Area Hospital and an Air Traffic Controller and Belfast International Airport. Under the articles above they cannot adopt a child despite them both loving the various nephews and nieces that their respective brothers and sisters often leave them in charge of for babysitting duties.

James is a 22 year old gay man from Belfast. He is working for the Civil Service as an Administrative Officer. He too has nephews and a niece but his family disowned him at the age of 16 when he told them he was gay. He has very little contact with children as all of his friends are other gay men that he spends his weekends with down at or near Union Street. Under the above articles there is nothing stopping him adopting as a single person should he so choose, he can adopt if he wants and his status is still single when he does.

Believe it or not for all the talk of family values from politicians in Northern Ireland preventing gay couples adopting there is nothing to stop gay singles from doing so under the law. Bizarrely the Northern Ireland Assembly via myopia, prejudice, intent or accident have allowed lesbian and gay singles to do something that lesbian and gay couples cannot do.

May I suggest the following changes to Section 14:

Adoption by a Married Couple

14.—(1) An adoption order shall not be made on the application of more than one person except in the circumstances specified in paragraphs (2) and (3).

(2) An adoption order may be made on the application of

(a) a married couple where both the husband and the wife have attained the age of 21 years.

(b) a civil partnership where both partners have attained the age of 21 years.

(3) An adoption order may be made on the application of a married couple or civil partnership where—

(a)the husband or the wife or one of the civil partners

(i)is the father or mother of the child; and

(ii)has attained the age of 18 years;

and

(b)his or her spouse or civil partner has attained the age of 21 years.

(4) An adoption order shall not be made on the application of a married couple or civil partnership unless at least one of them is domiciled in a part of the United Kingdom, or in any of the Channel Islands or in the Isle of Man.

There that didn’t hurt too much, did it? I look forward to the debate in Stormont.

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6 Comments

Filed under homophobia, Human Rights, law, Stormont

6 responses to “Is Northern Ireland’s adoption policy discriminatory?

  1. without being unconstructive, i think the obvious answer to the question posed by your blog title is: yes 😛

  2. Pingback: 62% of Northern Ireland in favour of Equal Marriage | LGBT Lib Dems Northern Ireland

  3. Pingback: Up to the Assembly to adopt equality for LGBT citizens | LGBT Lib Dems Northern Ireland

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