Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots has been branded “unfit for office” over his decision to challenge a senior judge’s ruling on adoption rights for couples in civil partnerships.

Earlier this month, Mr Justice Treacy of Belfast High Court said Northern Ireland’s ban had discriminated against same-sex couples in civil partnerships and also breached their right to family life.

At present a single gay or lesbian person can adopt, but a couple in a civil partnership cannot.

Equality campaigners welcomed the ruling – but just hours later – Health Minister Edwin Poots confirmed that he was formally going to appeal the decision.

Mr Poots, an evangelical Protestant who remains opposed to same-sex relationships, was accused of allowing his “personal prejudices” to influence public policy by the director of Northern Ireland’s Rainbow Project.

Speaking at his party’s conference on Saturday, Northern Ireland Green Party leader Steven Agnew said Mr Poots was “unfit for office” and that his decision was a “disgrace” when the country had more than 2,500 children in care.

This weekend marks 30 years since Northern Ireland’s ban on male same-sex relations was taken off the statue book after a landmark European court ruling.

Jeff Dudgeon, the gay rights activist who helped changed the country’s law, has taken part in a special anniversary service organised by the LGBT Christian group, Changing Attitude Ireland, this afternoon to celebrate the anniversary.