No child should ever be separated from her mother just because of her mother’s sexual orientation, but this continues to happen to families around the world. Decades of social science research have shown that a parent’s sexual orientation has absolutely no effect on their ability to be a good parent. But courts still rely on discredited notions that being raised by a lesbian mother is harmful for children.
On May 31, 2004, a Chilean Court ordered Karen Atala to give up custody of her three children to her estranged husband because she was a lesbian and living with her female partner. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights recently ruled that this violated the human rights of Karen Atala and her daughters. It ruled that Chile must provide education and training for judges and civil servants and must publicly admit responsibility for violating their rights. It also ruled that Chile must provide counseling to Karen Atala and her daughters if they request it and pay damages and legal fees.
NCLR joined other groups in an amicus brief in support of Karen Atala arguing that Chile’s actions violated their human rights under international law. The law firm Morrison Foerster represented these groups before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
NCLR was founded in 1977 to help lesbian mothers losing custody of their children – and quickly expanded our work to represent gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV+ parents as well. Although we have come a long way, there are still a few states in the U.S. that allow courts to consider a parent’s sexual orientation in making custody decisions. Transgender parents often face discrimination in custody cases, even though the same laws that protect LGB parents should also protect them.
We will continue our work to protect families until every country and every state in the U.S. recognizes that what matters is the love and care that a parent gives her child – not the parent’s sexual orientation or gender identity.