A human rights body in Northern Ireland has begun arguments at the country’s High Court to reverse the ban on unmarried couples adopting children.

The Human Rights Commission is challenging laws which it argues are incompatible with those in England, Wales and Scotland, and do not protect the interests of the child in question.

A judicial review of the legislation is being applied for after an historic House of Lords decision in 2008.

In that case, it was held that a man should not be barred from applying to adopt his female partner’s daughter on the basis that they were not married.

Monye Anyadike-Danes QC said: “Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom which provides a gateway for adoption through which only couples who are married may pass.”

Making opening arguments yesterday, the BBC reports Ms Anyadike-Danes saying the challenge is focused on ensuring gay and unmarried couples are not automatically excluded at the first stage of the adoption process.

Instead, their ability to provide “a nurturing and loving and permanent home” should be assessed in the same way as straight couples.

She added: “The current state of the law, we say, is not something that has been established to be in the best interest of the child.

“We consider the status quo, as it impacts on all unmarried couples, to be discriminatory.”

The hearing, which began on Monday, is expected to last three days.