Colombian Court Approves Adoption by American Gay Man

By Andrew Harmon

Originally published on Advocate.com May 24 2012 9:24 AM ET

In a landmark decision, Colombia’s highest constitutional court has ruled in favor of a gay American man whose adoption of two orphaned boys in the country sparked a national debate.

Chandler Burr, a journalist and former scent critic for The New York Times, won custody of the two boys after the country’s Corte Constitutional ruled that family welfare officials "cannot rely on appearances, preconceptions or prejudices" in deciding adoption cases. The ruling could have a far-reaching impact on the rights of LGBT individuals seeking to adopt children in the country.

As Advocate.com reported earlier this year on the adoption battle:

The fight over Jose and Angel Pinto Sierra has been an epic one. On March 30, 2011, Burr was barred by an official with the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF) from traveling to the U.S. with the boys, now legally named Brian, 13, and Joseph, 9, after he disclosed that he is gay. The boys had been abandoned by their biological parents and had been transferred into state custody a few years earlier.

After Burr had already finalized the adoption paperwork and received the adoption decree, he urged the official, Ilvia Ruth Cárdenas, who heads the institute’s adoption division, to rethink the country’s position forbidding LGBT parents from “giving these kids the homes and love they need.”

Despite a 1995 Colombian court decision finding that sexual orientation may not be used as a criterion for a prospective parent’s suitability to adopt, the government’s de facto policy has been to categorically deny adoption to gay individuals, whether Colombian or foreign.

“I said, ‘You know me, you know I’ll be a good parent. I’m gay,’” Burr recalled of his conversation with Cárdenas. “And she immediately freaked out. ... I assumed, naively in retrospect, that since the boys were legally mine and she couldn’t take them away legally, even if she was very upset, she wouldn’t break the law. This is exactly what she and ICBF did.”

More at AFP.