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IWHR Clinic Weighs in on International Sexual Orientation Discrimination Case

September 9, 2011

The Inter-American Court on Human Rights recently heard the case of Karen Atala Riffo, a lesbian mother and judge who was stripped of custody of her two daughters by the Supreme Court of Chile in 2003 because of her sexual orientation. This is the first time the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ever heard a case specifically regarding sexual orientation or gender identity. CUNY Law’s International Women’s Human Rights (IWHR) Clinic, along with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, MADRE, and others, issued an amicus curie brief showing that discrimination based on sexual orientation violates human rights.

Lisa Davis, professor in the IWHR Clinic, said, “Ignoring the growing international trend against discrimination based on sexual orientation, the highest court of Chile has institutionalized discrimination in this case, with the denial of Atala’s parental rights. Perversely, Atala is recognized as fit to uphold the highest principles of justice as a judge, and yet the Supreme Court found that she is not fit to carry out the duties of a mother. Indeed, Chile makes no attempt to deny that its action was on the basis of Ms. Atala’s sexual orientation.” CUNY Law’s IWHR Clinic is widely recognized for its expertise and contributions to gender jurisprudence and practice of human rights.

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