Northern Ireland: Petition calls on Health Minister to be sacked over anti-gay views

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Nearly 3,000 people have signed an online petition urging Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots to be sacked by the Stormont Assembly for “squandering public money in the pursuit of a personal agenda against unmarried and same-sex couples.”

The DUP Assembly Member has used thousands of pounds in order to fund a legal challenge preventing same-sex couples from adopting children in the province, with the approximate final cost being £40,000.

In October 2012 Belfast High Court declared that Northern Ireland’s ban had discriminated against same-sex couples in civil partnerships and also breached their right to family life.

Equality campaigners welcomed the ruling, but just hours later Mr Poots confirmed that he was formally going to appeal the decision.

As a result, adoption rights for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland were put on hold.

Earlier this month Mr Poots was given leave to take his case to the UK Supreme Court in London.

He believes much of Northern Ireland is on his side and tweeted on 14 September:

Sinn Fein Assembly Member Maeve McLaughlin, who has just become chair of the NI Assembly’s health committee, has called on Mr Poots to stop wasting public money.

In a statement she said: “The Health Minister has brought his own personal prejudices to this issue in the same way that these prejudices clouded his judgement regarding gay people donating blood.

“This not only affects people in same-sex relationships but also unmarried couples and those in civil partnerships.

“The focus in any adoption has to be the child’s welfare and to deny children a good home on the basis of prejudices is wrong.”

Mr Poots is a young earth creationist and rejects the theory of evolution. He remains opposed to same-sex relationships.

The Minister has also spent approximately £37,000 on legal costs upholding the ban against men who have sex with men donating blood.

In 2012, Mr Poots angered equality campaigners after he decided to retain Northern Ireland’s blanket ban.

“I think that people who engage in high-risk sexual behaviour in general should be excluded from giving blood,” he said in June 2012.

England, Wales and Scotland changed the law in November 2011 and opted for a 1-year deferral, meaning gay and bisexual can donate providing they remain celibate for 12 months.

“I am shocked that the Minister can justify spending nearly £100,000 of public money to fund his own personal campaigns. He should stop wasting public money on his own personal vendettas”, Alliance Party health spokesperson and Assembly Member Kieran McCarthy said.

“It is surprising that a DUP Minister has sought to oppose laws and rules which are in place in the rest of the UK”

He added: “There are too many children in our care system for us to be deciding who has the right to apply to adopt a child. It should be about whether a couple can provide a loving and safe home for a child.”