The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is one step closer to setting a dangerous legal precedent affecting marriage and the family.
The commission is defending a lesbian judge in Chile who has accused her country of violating her fundamental rights after she lost custody of her three daughters.
The Latin American Office of the Population Research Institute (PRI) said the commission has turned a custody battle into a fight over sexual orientation, with no regard for the children. The institute claims the daughters were mistreated by the mother and her partner.
Jacqueline Karen Atala Riffo separated from her husband and took her three children, at the time ages 10, 6 and 5, to live with her girlfriend.
The father of the girls, Jaime Lopez Allendes, filed for custody in 2003, and the Chilean Supreme Court ruled that he could provide greater stability for the children.
Lopez has had custody of the girls for seven years but says that during the time in which they were living with their mother, they “suffered significant changes in their lives because their mother decided to put her homosexuality above any other consideration,” PRI indicated in an Aug. 22 press release.
The commission has called on the Inter-American Human Rights Court—which is meeting this week in Bogota, Colombia—to rule that Chile violated Atala’s right to equality and that she is the victim of discrimination.
PRI said the commission has not taken into account all the facts of the case, including the evidence that the children suffered emotional and psychological harm under the care of their mother and her partner. Anyone who takes into account the testimony of family friends, maids and especially the psychologists who interviewed the children would come to the conclusion that the claim of “discrimination because of sexual orientation” is a “cheap excuse.”
“If you hit or neglect your children, the court can strip you of the custody of your children regardless of your ‘sexual orientation,’” PRI said.
It added that the commission was not looking out for the best interests of the children and instead had prioritized Atala’s demands to be able to “fully live out her particular ‘sexual orientation.’”
“In this case, which the media has dubbed the Karen Atala case, the commission has made serious errors by going outside its competence and that together constitute a grave invasion of the absolutely free decisions of each one of our countries,” PRI indicated.
The father of the girls has filed a petition with the court asking that their well-being be taken into account and that he be given a voice in the final outcome, as a ruling against Chile would open to the door to his losing custody of the girls.
The case is the first lawsuit claiming discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation that has come before the Inter-American Human Rights Court and could set a precedent for future cases.