Edwin Poots has said that while he does not regard being gay as an abomination, he believes the “natural order” for having a child is strictly between a man and a woman.

Responding to a question from Alliance Party politician Trevor Lunn, he vehemently denied allegations he thought that homosexuality was a treatable illness or an “abomination.”

However, he added: “The natural order, whether one believes in God or whether one believes in evolution, the natural order is for a man and a woman to have a child and therefore that has made my views on adoption very, very clear and on raising children very, very clear.”

He went on to give an example of when he visited a maternity unit earlier that day.

He said: “When it comes to adoption I’ve just come from a midwifery-led unit in Lagan Valley today and all of the people that were giving birth in that unit were women, and all of those women would not have been impregnated by another woman.

“The truth is that still today, in this modern era, it is only a man and a woman that can produce a child, and therefore I think it is in the best order for a man and a woman to raise a child.”

The DUP minister added: “People can criticise me for that and they can challenge me for that and they can say it is backward.”

Last month, the Supreme Court told Mr Poots he cannot appeal a previous ruling in favour of equality.

In response, Mr Poots said: “It is with disappointment that I note that the request for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court has been refused.

“I am currently carefully considering the implications for the Adoption and Children Bill, which is currently being drafted and which I intend to introduce in the Assembly next year.”

Previously, he said: “It is not a human right to adopt a child for either a mixed-sex couple or a same-sex couple.”

For the past year, Mr Poots has embarked on a similarly expensive legal challenge against removing the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood.

Mr Poots was told earlier this month by Belfast High Court that he’d breached the ministerial code in continuing with the ban.

It now falls to the UK Department of Health to quash the ban in Northern Ireland.