Gay and unmarried adoption battle set for Supreme Court
The health minister is set to take his fight against the extension of adoption rights to Northern Ireland's gay and unmarried couples to the UK's highest court.
Edwin Poots has been given leave by the Court of Appeal to appeal its ruling that any ban on gay and lesbian couples adopting is unlawful.
The Attorney General had his request for clarification on the issue refused.
The case is now expected to go before the Supreme Court in London.
The department of health's legal team can now petition the higher court directly to hear its case.
In October last year, the ban based on relationship status was held to discriminate against those in civil partnerships and to breach their human rights.
Previously, a single gay or lesbian person could adopt children in NI, but a couple in a civil partnership could not.
After the Court of Appeal ruling, adoption agencies were told they were able to accept applications from same-sex and unmarried couples and those in civil partnerships.
At the time, the Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) said the ruling would bring NI into line with the rest of the UK.
Representatives of the Rainbow Project, Northern Ireland's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organisation, expressed dismay that the department is now seeking to go to the Supreme Court over the issue.
Rainbow Project director, John O'Doherty said they were disappointed with the minister's decision.
"Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal have noted the practice of banning same-sex and unmarried couples from adopting is discriminatory," he said.
"Enough public money has been spent on this fool's errand. The minister should focus his time on ensuring the best available homes for children in care in Northern Ireland."