Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

Roe v. Patton United States District Court for the District of Utah (2015)

Gender discrimination

Plaintiffs Kami and Angie Roe sued the Executive Director of the Utah Department of Health in his official capacity and sought a preliminary injunction seeking a court order to enjoin the defendants from applying sections of the Utah Uniform Parentage Act differently to male and female spouses of women who become pregnant via sperm donation. The provisions of the Utah statute provide that a married man can become the legal parent to a child conceived by his wife through sperm donation by filing mutual consent in writing, but defendants have declined to apply this same rule to a married woman in respect to her wife. Instead, they have required that she undergo a step-parent adoption process. The court balanced the failure of defendants to provide a rational basis for the unequal treatment with the fact that the plaintiffs and similarly situated wives would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction to compel the defendants to equally apply the statute was not granted. As such, the court granted the preliminary injunction.



International Case Law

Atala Riffo and Daughters v. Chile Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2010)

Gender discrimination

Karen Atala Riffo, a judge in Chile, and her husband separated in 2002 and agreed that she would retain custody of their three daughters. After a few years, Ms. Atala began to live with her female partner. In response, her husband filed for custody claiming that the mother’s homosexuality was detrimental to the children. The lower court confirmed the grant of custody to the mother, finding that there was no evidence that homosexuality was pathological conduct that would make Ms. Atala unfit as a mother. On appeal, however, the Supreme Court of Chile granted custody to the father, on the basis that the mother’s sexuality would cause irreversible harm to the children’s development. Ms. Atala took the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (“IACHR”), marking the first time that the IACHR heard a case related to LGBT rights. The IACHR held that sexual orientation is a suspect class and that the Chilean courts had discriminated against Atala in the custody case in violation of the American Convention’s right to equality and non-discrimination. In 2012, the court ordered Chile to pay Atala USD $50,000 in damages and $12,000 in court costs. The Chilean government agreed to abide by the IACHR’s ruling.