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Atala v. Chile

Date of most recent action: 19 Feb 2011

Inter-American Court oversteps its boundaries, forcing Chile to act against its national laws


What’s at Stake

  • Promoting the best interests of children
  • Promoting the importance of both mothers and fathers

Summary

In 2005, when his wife announced that she would be moving in with her same-sex partner, Jaime Lopez applied for custody of their three children. Jaime explained to the Chilean courts that his ex-wife’s change of lifestyle would have developmental effects on their three daughters and that it would be better for them to live with him. The court accepted his arguments and granted his request for custody.

But in 2010, Jaime’s ex-wife, Karen Atala, claimed that Chile had discriminated against her on the basis of her “sexual orientation” and took her case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR). Two years later, the court ruled that Chile infringed upon Ms. Atala’s right to equality and non-discrimination. It considered that “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” were categories protected by the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, despite there being no internationally binding documents defining, or even referencing, such terms.

The IACtHR based its decision purely on the issue of discrimination and didn’t take into account the best interests of the child. And in a move that directly challenged Chile’s sovereignty, the court also instructed Chile to introduce numerous non-discrimination laws that would include “sexual orientation” as a protected characteristic.

ADF International provided legal arguments to the IACtHR in support of Chile, highlighting the impact that “sexual orientation” non-discrimination laws can have on religious freedom and other fundamental human rights.

Our Role in the Case

ADF International provided legal arguments to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in support of Chile, stating that such cases should be based purely on the best interests of the child.

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