Same-sex couples in Northern Ireland will soon be able to adopt children, officials said Wednesday. The announcement came after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal [BBC report] by Health Minister Edwin Poots [official profile], finding that it did not meet the criteria. The Northern Ireland High Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] last year that the law permitting adoption only by heterosexual married couples or single individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, was unlawful. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) [advocacy website] had challenged Articles 14 and 15 of the Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 [text], arguing that the "eligibility criteria for adoption are unjustifiably discriminatory." Poots' unsuccessful appeal means that unmarried heterosexual couples will also be eligible to adopt.
Same-sex adoption rights [JURIST backgrounder] have created controversy worldwide. In May Portugal's Parliament [official website, in Portuguese] voted to approve a law allowing same-sex married couples to adopt [JURIST report] their partners' children. In February Puerto Rico's Supreme Court upheld a law [JURIST report] banning same-sex couples from adopting children. Earlier that week, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a woman in a same-sex relationship could adopt her partner's biological child [JURIST report]. Also in February the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany ruled that same-sex couples in a civil union can legally adopt [JURIST report] the non-biological children of their partners. In October 2012 the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals [official website] upheld a law limiting marriage as a union between and one man and one woman. That ruling effectively barred a woman from adopting her female partner's child [JURIST report].