Former Health Minister Edwin Poots’ ban on gay men giving blood in Northern Ireland was influenced by his religious beliefs, the High Court heard on Tuesday.

Lawyers for the gay man who brought forward the case claimed Assembly comments by the Democratic Unionist MLA show he wrongly allowed his Christian morals to impact on his stance.

The lawyers are now seeking a ruling that Mr Poots displayed apparent bias in maintaining the lifetime prohibition on gay donations.

The High Court ruling strengthens a previous finding in October 2013 that the ban was “irrational.” Mr Poots is appealing that ruling along with British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Before the appeal can be heard the case has been referred back to Mr Justice Treacy to make a determination on that point.

Edwin Poots was replaced as Stormont’s health minister last year by DUP political representative Jim Wells. Mr Wells who came under fire for apparent homophobia within days of his appointment after blocking many gay rights activists on twitter, he has also referred to gay Pride as “repugnant” and repeatedly refused to take part in gay rights debates.

The gay blood ban, put in place during the 1980s AIDS threat, was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in November 2011 and replaced by new rules which allow blood from men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than a year ago.