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Posts Tagged ‘Jaime López’

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

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I was in Colombia the last two weeks of August. I could not help but notice that the Colombian press follows very closely Karen Atala’s case. To my knowledge, Atala’s story got barely more than a blurb in the New York Times in July, and that’s a pity; there are important issues at stake and its outcome in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights might have important implications for custodial rights across the continent.

Karen Atala is Chilean. Until  2002, she was married to Jaime López, with whom she had three daughters. Then they separated and agreed that Atala would have the custody of the girls, with weekend visitations for the father. But the latter changed his mind when his ex-wife started a relation with a women, Emma de Ramón. The couple lived under the same roof with the girls. According to Natalia Herrera Durán (El Espectador, August 25) López reclaimed custody on the ground that “the sexual orientation of his ex-wife was putting the emotional development of the girls at risk,” and (why not?) the girls might get AIDS. López prevailed and in 2003, Atala lost the custody of the girls. After several appeals, the case ended up in the Chilean Supreme Court. Verdict -hang on-:  “the mother has put his personal interest before those of the girls. The girls might be confused about their sexual role and suffer discrimination in the future.”

But -pardon my French- Karen Atala has balls. Also, she is a judge. That helps. She held steady while dragged in the mud by the Chilean press – which calls her “the lesbian judge”-  and under pressure to give up on her workplace.  According to Dominique Rodríguez Dalvard (El Tiempo,  August 28) the experts that testified at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights -whose sessions were held in Bogotá- asserted that “if Atala’s sexual conduct does not affect the living conditions of the girls, her sexual orientation is irrelevant.” One wonders why it did not occur to the Chilean Supreme Court.

Atala has argued in court that “being deprived of her girls has destroyed her identity and her personal dignity.” Gotcha!  To all fathers living in the U.S. doomed to get second-rate custody of their kids in gender-biased family courts (and loose it if any accusation of wrong parenting, founded or not, is brought against them), Atala’s words strongly resonate. Thanks to her courage, we might learn that if national family laws and courts suck, there is hope for justice somewhere. We cross our fingers awaiting the verdict of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

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