Our last day in Costa Rica, we had the opportunity to visit the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which, while located in San Jose, Costa Rica, serves as a supra national accountability mechanism to the majority of governments in Latin America. Individuals or groups who feel their rights have been violated by their government can petition the court to take their case.
One case that caught my attention was “Atala Riffo v. Chile”. Karen Atala Riffo is a lesbian Chilean woman with three children from a previous marriage. In 2002, her female partner moved in with her and her children. The father of the children sought to gain full custody as, to him, being raised by two women presented a danger to their development. Chile’s Supreme Court agreed, ordering her to relinquish custody based on the false premise that being raised by lesbian parents is harmful to children. She was able to take her case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which found that Chile had indeed violated her rights. The Court not only found that Chile had discriminated against Ms. Atala, but that Chile should instead take measures to strengthen families, including same-sex families.
This case represents a step forward as LGBT rights continue to advance across the Americas. In fact, Human Rights Watch repeatedly referenced the ruling in their testimony in favor of same sex marriage in Colombia, which passed in the spring of this year. The United States is not part of “La Convencion Americana,” but same sex couples across the nation are continuing to fight for their right to a family.