A man from Northern Ireland has been told by the High Court that his case challenging Northern Ireland’s blanket ban on gay men donating blood can proceed.
The High Court ruled he had established an arguable case that Health Minister Edwin Poots’ stance was irrational and unlawful.
Mr Justice Treacy was also told the ban was irrational because Northern Ireland takes blood supplies from the rest of the UK which could have been donated by gay men.
Legal papers submitted on support of the judicial review challenge also claimed Mr Poots position was infected by apparent bias.
Attorney General John Larkin QC, responding on behalf of the minister and department, argued that he was entitled to act as he has.
He stressed: “It’s the respondent’s case that no definitive decision has been taken.”
The High Court allowed the case to go forward on evidence of irrationality on the part of the Health Minister and with a failure to comply with EU law. The Court did however throw out a challenge made on human rights grounds that attempted to establish Plaintiff was a victim because he could not donate blood.
In 2011 the rest of the United Kingdom revised down its ban on men who have sex with men giving blood, creating instead a 12 month deferral period which requires gay or bisexual men to have abstained from sex with other men within that time. This was reduced from the 10-year deferral period that had been in place in England, Scotland and Wales since the 1980s.
Campaigners say the ban is irrational and motivated by homophobia because it considers all gay men, regardless of sexual practice, to be a risk to blood donation integrity even though it does not ask those heterosexual donors who practice unsafe sex to adhere to the same standards.
The hearing is set to continue in December.
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