Inter-American Court of Human Rights considers appeal in lesbian mother custody case

by on September 8, 2011  •  In Family law

Sitting in Bogota, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights heard evidence late last month in the appeal filed by Karen Atala, a Chilean judge, challenging government actions that denied her custody rights because she is lesbian. (Background here) Unlike in U.S. courts, the 10-hour appellate argument included new testimony by expert witnesses. Following is the description of the hearing by one of those witnesses, Rob Wintemute of King's College London School of Law:

On the first day, the Court heard the testimony of Karen Atala and 5 expert witnesses.  On the second day, the Court heard closing legal arguments.  Most of the hearing was in Spanish rather than English, except for some judges' questions, and the presentations of two expert witnesses:  Allison Jernow (International Commission of Jurists, Geneva) and myself.  Each expert witness gave an opening statement, and then answered the questions of Ms. Atala's lawyers, the Government of Chile's lawyers, the lawyers of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Washington, DC, USA), and the judges…

Anyone who is interested and has the time can watch the video of my testimony here:

Part 14, <> (16:00 to 29:40) (witness takes oath at the beginning)
Part 15,
<> (all 2:26)
Part 16,
<> (all 29:51)
Part 17,
<> (0:00 to 23:55)

Alli Jernow's testimony followed mine:

Part 17, <>  (23:55 to 29:33)
Part 18, (all 29:39) [more video to come]

Latin America has become a veritable hotbed of lgbt rights activism, and this case has drawn significant attention outside as well as inside the region.  IGLHRC has been following it since its early stages, and a number of organizations filed amicus briefs, as also occurred when the case was before the Human Rights Commission, which ruled in Atala's favor (see para. 12 for list of amici).


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