Thursday, March 22, 2012

Landmark Ruling on LGBT Rights From IACHR

Word comes from Rex Wockner of a landmark ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (El Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos) or IACHR that declares that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected categories under the American Convention on Human Rights.

The New York Times has a useful, short summary of the details of the case involved:
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that must pay damages to a judge who was denied custody of her three daughters by the Supreme Court in 2004 because of her sexual orientation. The ruling by the human rights court, a judicial entity of the Organization of American States, requires Chile’s government to pay the judge, Karen Atala, left, $50,000, in addition to $12,000 in court costs. The February ruling, which was made public on Wednesday in Chile, is the latest development in a multiyear legal battle waged by Judge Atala, a lesbian who had lost custody of her daughters to her ex-husband, also a judge. Judge Atala’s lawyer called the decision “historic” for Chile’s legal system. Justice Minister Teodoro Ribera said Wednesday that Chilean authorities had acted to protect the “superior interests of the children involved,” but he also said Chile would respect the ruling. 
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission was also involved with the case, and submitted a legal brief on behalf of Atala. Their website has an excellent summary of the significance of the ruling.
The Court’s landmark ruling found that Chile not only violated Atala’s right to equality and non-discrimination but affirms for the first time in its history that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected categories and such discrimination violates international law. It represents a historic victory for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Chile and around the world.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), MADRE and the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law co-authored a brief (EnglishEspañol) for the Court, arguing that sexual orientation and gender identity should be found to be a protected class under the American Convention on Human Rights as held under international law. Attorneys from Morrison and Foerster focused on the custody issue at hand, arguing that sexual orientation and gender identity not be a factor in custody determinations. The brief was joined by 13 other organizations. This week’s ruling upholds both arguments.

“Though Karen Atala and her daughters can never regain the time they have lost together because of the destructive impact of homophobia, today the Inter-American Court has vindicated the legitimacy of their family,” said Jessica Stern, Director of Programs at IGLHRC. “The Court has set a transformative precedent to which every signatory to the Inter-American Convention – 24 countries throughout the Americas – is bound. Based on both American regional standards and international jurisprudence, the Court has ruled that LGBT people must live free from discrimination, whether as parents or in any other aspect of their lives.”

Lisa Davis, Human Rights Advocacy Director at MADRE and Clinical Professor for Law for the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic at CUNY Law School said today, “The Court’s ruling is a milestone victory for human rights advocates the world over. It sets a precedent in international law that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a human rights violation—one that we hope will help defend the rights of LGBT persons wherever these rights are under attack.”
This is great news!

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