Northern Ireland: Gay blood ban debated in High Court

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Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots’ decision to maintain the lifetime ban on gay men giving blood in Northern Ireland has been debated in the country’s High Court.

Mr Poots, a born-again Christian who disapproves of same-sex relationships, said it was taken purely on health grounds to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

In 2011, England, Wales and Scotland introduced a one-year deferral for gay and bisexual men who wish to donate blood.

They can donate – providing they refrain from having sex with men for 12 months.

However, Mr Poots opted to maintain the lifetime ban in Northern Ireland.

A gay man, who has been granted anonymity due to his perceived vulnerability, is seeking a ruling which would bring Northern Ireland’s policy into line with the rest of the UK.

The Belfast Telegraph reports it was revealed in court that the man has become a born-again Christian who now disapproves of gay relationships.

Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin, the chief legal adviser to the Stormont Executive, questioned the legitimacy of the challenge.

He said: “It seems to us there are a number of myths about this case.

“It’s not a case about theology, it’s not a case about the views that individuals including ministers or departmental officials may or may not have about the morality or immorality of private sexual matters.

“In fact, the only affidavits which deal with theological matters are the applicant’s, and the only part which says that homosexual acts are sinful is in the applicant’s affidavit.”

Mr Larkin contended: “In many ways your lordship’s time is being wasted because this is a young man who cannot give blood because he has exchanged money for sex.”

Earlier in the week, Mr Justice Treacy was told the lifetime prohibition was disproportionate, with an estimated one additional HIV infection per billion blood donations if a 12-month deferral period was introduced.

David Scoffield QC said: “Working that figure into the increased risk of one infected donation per billion, we estimate the Minister is concerned about an additional infected donation being made roughly every 50,000 years.”

Following final submissions Mr Justice Treacy reserved judgment in the case.