When an administrative agency in Buenos Aires denied equal paternity rights to a same-sex couple in 2013, the decision struck a nerve for Argentinian Francisco Berreta ’16 LL.M., who was working as a judicial clerk in the city at the time.
“Before that, I had been shy about who I was: a gay man,” he says, explaining that the agency’s determination meant there would be no accurate parental record for the couple’s child—who was born via surrogacy—resulting in the child’s exclusion from public benefits, like education and health care. “I became really passionate and committed to the cause, not only because it hit close to home. I felt a sense of duty, and a sense of calling.”
Berreta decided to direct his career toward the field of sexuality and gender law, focusing on the power of the law to classify individuals and ultimately determine what rights they can hold. He conducted research into the rulings of courts abroad and in Argentina. He also called upon friends in the legal community to help him decipher complex case law on the issue. “The way justice touches people depends on what ‘category’ they fall into,” he came to fully realize. “That needs to be addressed.”
Now an LL.M. Human Rights Fellow at Columbia Law School, Berreta is drafting a handbook aimed at providing legislators around the world with a framework for addressing the vulnerabilities of the LGBTIQ community (the “I” standing for intersex, which Berreta is deliberate in pointing out). He also hopes to develop a common vocabulary that can be used throughout the global legal community to help tackle these issues more efficiently and end the persecution of LGBTIQ people.
“I want to democratize these concepts, talk about them, and get the public conversation going to advance the rights of those that are rendered invisible in many regions,” Berreta says. “These are real people and we should know their stories.”