Ruling in Chile forces gay parents to choose between the closet, parenting rights
BY KEVIN G. HALL
Knight Ridder Newspapers
SANTIAGO, Chile - (KRT) - Judge Karen Atala had the love of her three daughters and commanded the respect of Chilean lawyers arguing cases in her courtroom. Now, all across the deeply conservative Andean nation, she's known simply as "the lesbian judge."
Atala became an unwitting public figure and international gay-rights symbol when Chile's Supreme Court, in a controversial 3-2 decision May 31, overruled two lower courts and awarded custody of her children to her ex-husband, Jaime Lopez.
The small-town judge wasn't an alcoholic, promiscuous or a negligent mother - reasons Chilean courts usually place children in the custody of their fathers. Atala's "grave" mothering mistake was admitting she's a lesbian who took a partner.
In South America's most conservative nation, the court ruling sought to bolster the Roman Catholic Church's definition of traditional families. Monsignor Cristian Contreras, an auxiliary bishop in Santiago, praised the "commonsense" approach of the judges.