Steven Agnew, the leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland has criticised the country’s Health Minster, Edwin Poots, for his opposition to same-sex parents.

Mr Poots has unsuccessfully attempted to prevent civil partners and unmarried couples from adopting children in the province, spending £40,000 of public money in the process.

He has also spent £37,112 in trying to maintain Northern Ireland’s lifetime ban on gay men giving blood.

Last week, the Democrat Unionist minister said the “natural order” for having a child was strictly between a man and a woman.

Responding to a question from Alliance Party MLA Trevor Lunn, Mr Poots, an evangelical social conservative, denied suggestions 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.”

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, Northern Ireland Green Party leader, Steven Agnew, said: On what basis does Edwin Poots make these statements? There will be many Christians who see no contradiction between belief in God and evolution and will be offended by his words.

“The “natural order” – now there’s a term that sends shivers up my spine.”

“Appealing to the “natural order” is a shortcut for saying this cannot be disagreed with. That type of language should worry any democrat.”

“What does it mean anyway? IVF treatment isn’t “natural”, but it is funded by the NHS in Northern Ireland, including under Edwin Poots’ watch.”

“By appealing to the “natural order”, the minister is suggesting there is a ‘right’ way to procreate and raise children – morally right.”

“Evidence suggests that children can do just as well being raised by parents of the same gender. The minister’s view has no rational basis.”

He added: “A minister’s duty is to act on behalf of all the people of Northern Ireland; of all religious views and of none.

“If his personal values prevent him from doing that, then he should step aside.”