Colombian High Court to Hear American Gay Adoption Case

BY Andrew Harmon

January 26 2012 11:50 AM ET

If the Constitutional Court decides to render a decision via a three-judge panel, an opinion would likely be issued within three or four months. Full consideration of the case by the court’s nine justices would take longer, Uprimny said. Either way, the court’s decision would be final.

Meanwhile, the Colombian equivalent of the U.S. Attorney General’s office could be pursuing a criminal investigation against Burr for fraud and perjury.

“Perjury cannot exist without a question and a dishonest answer. They never asked me about my sexual orientation at any point, so no answer exists,” Burr said. As for claims of fraud, “In eight months they were not able to show, not once, that I committed those crimes,” he said.

Uprimny said the potential criminal case is not related to the constitutional question to be decided by the court. “On the contrary,” he said, “if the Constitutional Court says that clearly a gay person can adopt and does not have to reveal his or her sexual orientation, it is obvious that the criminal case has to be [closed] in favor of [Burr].”

But a Colombian individual with knowledge of the case recently contacted Burr about the potential negative impact of a criminal investigation, claiming that new problems could arise in the adoption case, even though the boys are now in the United States.

Lambda Legal staff attorney Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, who worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the State Department to ensure that American officials understood that Burr is the rightful adoptive father of the boys, said the case marks the first time that the Constitutional Court will consider the rights of single gay parents. A separate case involving a lesbian couple in Medellín seeking a second-parent adoption for the biological child of one of the women is currently pending before the court.

Despite Latin American LGBT rights gains in places such as Mexico City and Argentina, Burr’s case shows how the broader homophobic culture of Colombia continues to affect same-sex couples and those who are open about their sexual orientation, Espinoza-Madrigal said. “Mr. Burr had not done anything wrong. He had gone through all the required adoption procedures and passed them with flying colors. There are no grounds for rescinding the adoption.”

Burr said he has heard from countless people in the adoption field who are hopeful that his case will establish firm precedent about the rights of LGBT adoptive parents in Colombia.

Both boys are adjusting well to life in the States, Burr said. “They’re doing great. They’re in a terrific public school. And over the weekend, they just saw snow for the first time.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that an American official contacted Burr regarding the implications of the criminal investigation against him. The person who contacted Burr was a Colombian individual familiar with the case.

 

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