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Gender Identity, and Equality and Non-discrimination of Same Sex Couples

  • Nicolás Carrillo-Santarelli (a1)


In its advisory opinion, OC-24/17 (Advisory Opinion), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR or Court) addressed globally debated issues concerning gender identity, same-sex relationships, and the rights of LGBTI persons. As discussed below, the Court reached conclusions more progressive than those of its European counterpart, due to its finding that the principle of individual autonomy is embedded in the foundations of human rights law and permeates individual self-determination, the free development of one's personality, and the protection of different models of the family. In line with an apparent trend in the Court's case law, the Advisory Opinion rejects the idea that domestic societies are sometimes entitled, by virtue of a margin of appreciation, to choose among different possibilities for protecting human rights, provided that certain international legal limits are observed—an idea addressed in the dissenting opinion.



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1 After publication of the Advisory Opinion, Costa Rican president Luis Guillermo Solís welcomed the decision, stressing his championing of rights for same-sex couples during his election campaign. Costa Rican Government Press Release, Somos un Estado Respetuoso del Derecho Internacional (Jan. 10, 2018).

2 Such doctrine basically holds that all state authorities are obliged to take into account the ACHR and the case law of the IACtHR when they exercise their functions. MacGregor, Eduardo Ferrer, Conventionality Control: The New Doctrine of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, 109 AJIL Unbound 93 (2015).

3 Juridical Condition and Rights of the Undocumented Migrants, Advisory Opinion OC-18/03, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. A) No. 18, paras. 100–01, 110 (Sept. 17, 2003).

4 Regarding children, the Court urged considering maturity and capacity to form personal views (paras. 154–55).

5 Schalk and Kopf v. Austria, 2010-IV Eur. Ct. H.R. 409, 429.

6 John H. Jackson, Sovereignty, The WTO, and Changing Fundamentals of International Law 72–76 (2009).

7 David Bolaños Acuña, Las Ideas de Fabricio Alvarado Sobre la Corte IDH, Puestas a Prueba, Semanario Universidad (Feb. 3, 2018).

8 Case of Ivcher Bronstein v. Peru, Competence, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 54, paras. 36, 51 (Sept. 24, 1999).

9 Jan Klabbers, International Law 3 (2017); Scobbie, Iain, Legal Theory as a Source of International Law: Institutional Facts and the Identification of International Law, in The Oxford Handbook of the Sources of International Law 493, 496 (Besson, Samantha & d'Aspremont, Jean eds., 2017); Schachter, Oscar, Human Dignity as a Normative Concept, 77 AJIL 848, 853 (1983).

10 GA Res. 41/120, para. 4(b) (Dec. 04, 1986); Schachter, supra note 9, at 848.

11 Goodhart, Michael, Human Rights and Non-state Actors: Theoretical Puzzles, in Non-state Actors in the Human Rights Universe 23, 36 (Andreopoulos, George, Arat, Zehra F. Kabasakal & Juviler, Peter eds., 2006).

12 Colombian Constitutional Court, Judgment T-498/17 (Aug. 3, 2017).

13 Thomas M. Franck, Fairness in International Law and Institutions 7, 22–26 (2002).

14 Case of Duque v. Colombia, Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 310 (Feb. 26, 2016); Case of Atala Riffo and Daughters v. Chile, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Judgment, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) No. 239 (Feb. 24, 2012).


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Gender Identity, and Equality and Non-discrimination of Same Sex Couples

  • Nicolás Carrillo-Santarelli (a1)


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