María Elósegui Itxaso was this week appointed as a judge at the European Court of Human Rights, the Spaniard has courted controversy galore during her long career, and now has reached the pinnacle of her profession.

Full article appeared in El Pais and can be found here.

The 60-year-old has a long resume. She has a doctorate in Law and Philosophy. She is a visiting professor at universities in Canada and the United States. She has collaborated on legislative projects with the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), the Aragon Party and the ruling Popular Party. And, among other things, she has worked for five years on the European commission against racism.

Question. You are the first Spanish woman to be appointed as a judge on the ECHR despite having the lowest chances. Do you feel like a token choice?

Answer. No, although it wouldn’t bother me if I was. I normally have a better resume than the men I compete against. I have reached the same level, not with equally good but rather double the experience. That’s why I don’t mind if they say this is affirmative action for equal merit and I have no fear of them saying I have been given the role because I am a woman.

Q. What do you think you can bring to the court?

A. My sensitivity to the struggle for human rights, not only from a theoretic and academic point of view, but also by trying to contribute to real social changes with skill – without getting involved in political or social activism but instead contributing to the equality law or fighting for month-long paternity leave, for example. Or on issues relating to stopping racial discrimination. I have worked a lot on immigration issues and those concerning regional, cultural and ethnic minorities. I am in touch with diversity. I have worked with people from different cultures and religions and I can share this sensitivity. It’s not just an academic issue.

Q. This is a commission against intolerance, but there are quotes from your work that express some very sharp opinions, for instance when you say that homosexuality is an illness.

A. I have not worked specifically on homosexuality but I have on transsexuality. These are things that must be studied rigorously, you have to look at what science and medicine is saying on the matter. Even within the gay community, there were different positions on the sex-change law. Some agreed with the demand for an irreversible surgery and wanted Social Security to cover the cost of it, and others supported transition but not irreversible gender reassignment surgery. I studied the medical consequences and positioned myself more with those against an irreversible operation. I did say that and now it can be manipulated. You have to watch the entire film. I don’t believe I have said the quotes that are attributed to me. They have twisted my words.

Q. But do you believe homosexuality is an illness?

A. No, I don’t think homosexuality is a source of illness. I think the origins of homosexuality are being investigated and there are many theories. But none I think that has been proven. There are also different positions within the gay community. People make choices in their lives and this is one more choice.

Q. You have also said you are “against gay ideology.”

A. I couldn’t have said that because I don’t use the term ideology. There are various anthropological positions and there always will be. It is a question of anthropology not ideology, it is a life philosophy.

Q. But do you believe gay people have a common “life philosophy”?

A. Some believe that sex is a cultural construct that can be built and that nothing before conditions us, no conditioning before biology. That is one theory. How much comes from nature and how much from culture. Some say it is genetic and others say it is a choice. They do not have just one theory and that is normal. There is an evolution, a debate and things that are not agreed on.