The ban preventing gay couples in civil partnerships and unmarried straight couples from adopting children in Northern Ireland has been deemed unlawful, a High Court judge has ruled.

According to UTV, the verdict came in a challenge to adoption laws brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC).

In March of this year, the country’s Attorney General John Larkin QC said there were no plans to change the law and that it was up to the Stormont Assembly to make any amendments.

However, on Thursday, Mr Justice Treacy said the ban discriminated against those in civil partnerships and breached their right to family life.

Speaking after the ruling in the High Court, he said:

“The present legislation essentially entails that a gay or lesbian person must choose between being eligible to adopt, or affirming their relationship in public via a civil partnership ceremony.”

NIHRC Chief Commissioner Professor Michael O’Flaherty felt it was a big victory for gay rights campaigners and said:

“The Human Rights Commission welcomes today’s landmark ruling. Through this case the commission has sought to protect the best interests of the child.

“Given the high numbers of children in care, who need a family in Northern Ireland, the importance of this case in widening the pool of prospective parents cannot be overstated. We are therefore delighted with this outcome.

“It brings Northern Ireland law in line with the rest of the UK and means that couples who are not married, those in civil partnerships and same-sex couples will be now be allowed to apply to adopt”.