It is already old news but it is major news. Karen Atala, the Chilean judge who had lost custody of her three daughters because of her sexual orientation – and had appealed the Chilean Supreme Court to no avail- has finally prevailed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Chilean justice system had deprived Karen Atala from her parental rights on the grounds she was a lesbian, hence her children could turn homosexual; a variant of the “best interest of the child stuff.” On March 21 of this year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights acknowledged that Atala was discriminated against, and that the damage caused by the Chilean justice was beyond repair. The Chilean government is required to pay Atala $50,000 in addition to $12,000 for legal expenses.
Simon Romero (the New York Times) talks of a landmark gay rights’ victory. Certainly, but I would also think of the outcome of Karen Atala’s versus Chile as potentially having critical implications for fathers rights. In most US States, fathers have second-class parental rights, on the grounds that women have a predisposition for parenting that men don’t have; in short, since “men hunt and women nest,” to plagiarize Seinfeld, women get full custody of the children. Fathers’ relations with their children are further damaged by lengthy divorce and child abuse trials. As fathers try not to be expelled from the lives of their children, family courts opposed the fait accompli of their severed relations with their children, which proceeds from these custody battles.
That’s the ultimate trick that Jaime López, Atala’s ex-husband, tried to pull on her. According to López, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights did not care about what his daughters think; his daughters don’t see themselves as victims. They are part of a happy heterosexual family. Too bad that their mother have not seen them for years. Fortunately, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights did not make the mistake that US family courts consistently make, that is to give credence to “the best interest” of the alienated child, who inevitably sides with the alienating parent.
Atala’s case may help the US family court system protect better gay parents rights. Let’s hope it also help US family courts to figure out that fathers- gay or not- ought to have the same parental rights women have.
Hat tip: Vinka Jackson