Latin America

Lesbian Couple Tests Colombia's Adoption Laws

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In Latin America, high courts are expanding the rights of gay people, including the right to marry. Now many courts are also ruling in favor of gay adoption. One case that could set an important precedent involves a lesbian couple in Colombia.


In Latin America, the highest courts have increasingly been ruling in favor of gay rights, and that includes the right to marry. Now, some countries are moving to allow adoption by people who are gay. It is a hot-button issue that has drawn fierce opposition. One case that could set an important precedent, involves a lesbian couple in Colombia. NPR's Juan Forero has the story.

JUAN FORERO, BYLINE: This lush region of picturesque towns in the mountainous northwest, is as conservative as it gets. Colombia's former hard-line president, Alvaro Uribe, is from here. Families are close-knit, and people take their traditions seriously - from the region's finely bred horses, to the hardy food and folk music.


FORERO: At an airy restaurant on a mountainous stretch of highway, a band sings old ballads about romance and falling in love. They could be songs about Ana Leiderman and Veronica Botero. The couple came to enjoy a Sunday lunch with their two children - Raquel, 4; and Ari, 2, who can't get enough of the restaurant's jungle gym.


FORERO: Life revolves around their family - and Botero says their life is no different from that of any other family.

VERONICA BOTERO: Boring, really boring family.


BOTERO: Nothing happens. We go to the supermarket. We have to hang around with the kids on the weekends. Nothing happens. We have a really, really common life; very normal, non-interesting life.


FORERO: A couple since 2005, Leiderman was artificially inseminated, and gave birth to the children. Legally, she has custody. The couple, though, wants Botero to have the same rights. They want Raquel and Ari to benefit from Botero's health-care plan and pension. They want them to have the right to Botero's inheritance. They also want Botero to be able to have custody, should something happen to Leiderman.

Colombian law, though, doesn't permit same-sex couples to adopt. So Leiderman and Botero have taken their case to Colombia's highest court - the Constitutional Court - in a case that's being closely watched across the region. Leiderman says it's Raquel and Ari who are the victims.

ANA LEIDERMAN: It's got to do with kids, children that are second-class citizens right now. It is not fair. It's not fair that my children should suffer because of choices that I made.

FORERO: In more and more Latin American countries, gay people have won the right to marry, and adopt. Some American gay rights advocates say the region is moving faster than the United States - where there's no legal framework in most states, for both partners in a gay union to adopt. Jennifer Chrisler directs the Family Equality Council in Washington.

JENNIFER CHRISLER: 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 and where we are, from a policy perspective.

FORERO: But Jose Galat, a leading Catholic activist here in Colombia, calls same-sex marriage, and gay adoption of children, an abomination.

JOSE GALAT: (Foreign language spoken)

FORERO: In a union of two men, where there's no mother, who will the adopted child call "Daddy" - or "Mommy," Galat says.

Leiderman and Botero are "Mommy" to both the children. And they say that despite the region's conservatism, they've never faced discrimination or any other problem; not with their families, nor with their children's teachers nor with other parents, says Botero.

BOTERO: At the beginning, they are like, shocked when you tell them that we are a couple. But after a while - like, 30 seconds later - they are like, OK, this is no news anymore. They look very normal; they act normal. So there's nothing there.

FORERO: On a recent night, the family settled in after a day in the countryside.


FORERO: Raquel and Ari watched a children's TV show.


FORERO: There was dinner - a fondue that delighted Raquel.


FORERO: And finally, Raquel and Ari were tucked in - offering kisses, and wishing their mothers a good night.


FORERO: Juan Forero, NPR News.


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