Inter-American Court of Human Rights Recognizes Discrimination on Basis of Sexual Orientation
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights for the first time has recognized unlawful discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, in a decision released two weeks ago, Atala v. Chile (here is the decision, in Spanish). Congratulations to Macarena Saez, a Chilean lawyer who teaches at my school (Washington College of Law, American University), for leading a team of public interest lawyers to achieve this decision. As WCL’s associate dean, Mary Clark, summarizes:
[T]he Atala v. Chile decision marks the first time that the Inter American Court has recognized discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This case began in 2004 when the Chilean Supreme Court denied Judge Karen Atala the custody of her three minor children because she was living with her lesbian partner. Macarena and her team of attorneys from Public Liberties (an association of Chilean attorneys) took the case to the Inter American Commission of Human Rights and, last year, the case made it to the Inter American Court of Human Rights. Macarena argued the case before both the Commission and the Court.
It was a long battle, but the case has come to a very successful end, with a decision that declares sexual orientation a condition protected by the American Convention on Human Rights. The decision also declares that all individuals regardless of sexual orientation enjoy the right to family. Finally, it declares that the best interest of the child cannot be used as an excuse to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.