Atala Riffo and Daughters v. Chile

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Atala Riffo and Daughters v. Chile
CourtInter-American Court of Human Rights
Full case nameAtala Riffo and Daughters v. Chile
DecidedFebruary 24, 2012 (2012-02-24)
Citation(s)Inter-Am. Comm. HR, Case 12.502
Case opinions
Laws which discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation are prohibited by the American Convention on Human Rights; sexual orientation is a suspect classification.
Court membership
Judges sittingDiego García Sayán, President; Manuel E. Ventura Robles, Vice-President; Leonardo A. Franco, Margarette May Macaulay,Rhadys Abreu-Blondet, Alberto Pérez Pérez, Judges

Atala Riffo and Daughters v. Chile (Spanish: Atala Riffo y Niñas vs. Chile) was an LGBT rights child custody case in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which reviewed a Chilean court ruling that in 2005 awarded custody to a father because of the mother's sexual orientation. In 2012, the IACHR ruled in favor of the mother.[1] It was the first case the Inter-American Court took regarding LGBT rights. The Court's ruling also determined sexual orientation to be a suspect classification.

Child custody[edit]

Karen Atala Riffo is a Chilean judge and lesbian mother of three daughters.[2] Atala was separated from her husband in 2001,[3] and originally reached a settlement with her ex-husband that she would retain custody of the children. When Atala came out as a lesbian in 2002, however, the ex-husband sued for custody, where the case was eventually heard by the Supreme Court of Chile. That court awarded the husband custody, saying that Atala's relationship put the development of her children at risk.[4][5]

IACHR appeal[edit]

In late 2004, Atala took the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, supported by amicus briefs from a number of rights organizations including the National Center for Lesbian Rights. In 2008, the Commission ruled that the case was admissible to the Court,[6] as it concerned Article 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights concerning equal protection.[7][8] This marked the first time the IACHR had taken an LGBT rights case.[4]

In 2010, the Court ruled that sexual orientation was a suspect class, and that in Atala had been discriminated against in the custody case in ways incompatible with the American Convention.[4][9] In 2012, the court further awarded custody and damages of USD $50,000 damages and $12,000 in court costs. Chile's Minister of Justice, Teodoro Ribera said that Chile would abide by the ruling.[10][11]

As precedent[edit]

In December 2012, Mexico's highest judicial body, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, unanimously struck down an Oaxaca law which prohibited same-sex marriage, with a decision based in part in the Atala ruling's prohibition of "any rule, act, or discriminatory practice based on sexual orientation".[12]


  1. ^ Romero, Simon (22 March 2012). "Landmark Gay Rights Ruling". The New York Times. p. 11. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  2. ^ Rohter, Larry (20 July 2006). "Lesbian Judge Fights Chilean Court for Taking Her Children". The New York Times. p. 6. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  3. ^ Reel, Monte (November 30, 2006). "In Conservative Chile, a Push for Change". The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Abass, Ademola (2011-12-15). Complete International Law. Oxford University Press. pp. 171–. ISBN 9780199578702. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  5. ^ Porteous, Clinton (12 May 2005). "Chile lesbian loses child appeal". BBC. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  6. ^ "Declaran admisible demanda de jueza lesbiana Karen Atala ante Corte de DDHH". La Tercera (in Spanish). August 12, 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  7. ^ León, José Julio; José Julio León (2011). "Justice, prejudice, and the basis for reasonable legal argument: the Karen Atala case". Cogency: Journal of reasoning and argumentation. 3 (2): 125–145. ISSN 0718-8285.
  8. ^ Nieto, Juliana Cano (2009). "Not Worth a Penny": Human Rights Abuses Against Transgender People in Honduras. Human Rights Watch. pp. 43–. ISBN 9781564324863. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  9. ^ "Atala Riffo and Daughters v. Chile" (PDF). Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. September 17, 2010. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  10. ^ "Inter-American Court rules against Chile in the Atala case". Santiago Times. March 21, 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  11. ^ Chile: Landmark Gay Rights Ruling, Simon Romero, The New York Times, 21-03-2012, access date 25-03-2012
  12. ^ Feder, J. Lester (December 5, 2012). "Mexican Supreme Court rules for marriage equality". Salon. Archived from the original on 14 December 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2012.

External links[edit]