To Leiderman and Botero, it is a case of discrimination that hurts them all. Their contention is being reviewed by Colombia’s highest court in a case that, if successful, would not only upend this conservative country’s social order but also have implications across Latin America, where gay rights advocates are demanding equal rights for same-sex couples.
“The case clearly plants the recognition of a family made up of two people of the same sex,” said Mauricio Albarracin, a lawyer with Diverse Colombia, a gay rights group that has advocated for the couple. “It’s no longer a discussion over protections for a couple but over the ties and rights of a nuclear family.”
In the United States, the debate over gay couples and their rights to be parents have been hot-button topics ahead of November’s election. But in many ways, it is in Latin America where gay communities are making some of the biggest strides.
Most prominently in big countries, such as Brazil and Mexico, gay rights advocates are using innovative legal strategies before courts with a progressive bent. That has led to a range of rulings that are giving gays rights that were once unthinkable in a traditionally conservative and Catholic region, including the right to adopt.
The developments have not been lost on American activists, who have faced obstacles such as voter-approved propositions blocking gay unions and a Virginia law that effectively permits adoption agencies to turn away prospective parents because of their sexual orientation. Nine U.S. states prohibit or restrict adoptions by gay people, and in 30 states, there is no mechanism to allow both partners in a same-sex union to adopt, according to two recent reports partly authored by gay rights groups.
“It is fascinating to watch the evolution in Latin America, because in many respects, there are countries that are eclipsing, quite quickly, the United States,” said Jennifer Chrisler, director of the Washington-based Family Equality Council, an advocacy group for gay families. “So I think it’s incredibly hopeful for those of us in the United States who are watching these trends.”
The most-watched development took place in Argentina in 2010, when the National Congress approved same-sex marriages and all the benefits that go with such unions, including the right to adopt. In Brazil, the highest court last year extended the rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples to same-sex unions, making adoption by gay couples possible in the region’s biggest country. The Supreme Court in Mexico upheld Mexico City’s landmark decisions to legalize same-sex marriages and permit adoption. Tiny Uruguay also permits same-sex couples to adopt.