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#516741 - 08/10/16 06:20 PM Caleb Orozco wins his case!
Marty Offline

A celebratory hug moments after the Chief Justice decides in favor of Caleb Orosco

Supreme Court rules Section 53 unconstitutional
Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin today found that Section 53 of the Criminal Code which criminalizes consenting intercourse between adults of the same sex contravenes the right granted by the Constitution of Belize to no interference with a person’s dignity and personal privacy, as well as equality and equal treatment of all persons before the law. So finding, he added that the court has an obligation to amend the law to bring it in conformity with the Constitution, and ordered an amendment specifying that the section does not apply to consenting sexual acts between adults of the same gender. […]

Claimants pleased, Evangelicals gnash teeth following Section 53 decision
A small contingent of pro-LGBT individuals countered the much larger – though not by much – Christian gathering as the two bracketed Regent Street, and cheered the good news delivered around 11:30. Meanwhile, disappointed Evangelical Christian leaders attending the decision say they will redouble their efforts despite a court-sanctioned dismissal. […]

Belize’s Supreme Court Just Struck Down A Law That Made Homosexuality Illegal
The country is the first former British colony in the Caribbean to strike down its colonial-era sodomy law, and it could boost LGBT rights throughout the region. The Belize Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a law punishing homosexuality was unconstitutional. The decision was announced on the LGBT rights group Unibam’s Twitter account soon after the ruling was made. Unibam which first brought the challenge against the law back in 2010. Caleb Orozco, the main plaintiff in the case, told BuzzFeed News in an email that the Supreme Court ruled in his favor on privacy grounds, as well as under protections of “dignity, equality, and freedom of expression.” He added that the court also decided that protections in the Belizean constitution surrounding sex extend to sexual orientation.

#516744 - 08/10/16 09:23 PM Re: Caleb Orozco wins his case! [Re: Marty]
Conch Creative Offline
Couldn't be more pleased. This has changed the lives of thousands of Belizean people and will set the precedent for the rest of the Caribbean. Caleb is an incredibly brave young man. As a tourist destination, Belize will benefit greatly by legally being gay friendly. Love it!
Belize Wedding Photography

#516747 - 08/11/16 04:35 AM Re: Caleb Orozco wins his case! [Re: Marty]
ScubaLdy Offline
At last! Yes, there are many LBGT with money to travel and we can now welcome them OPENLY.
Take only pictures leave only bubbles

#516753 - 08/11/16 11:17 AM Re: Caleb Orozco wins his case! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

UNIBAM Grand Slam: Gay Sex Law Struck Out

Tonight Belize's LBGT community is rejoicing – after Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin struck down the law criminalizing sodomy.  It's the end of more than 3 years of waiting for gay rights activist Caleb Orozco who challenged the constitutionality of Section 53 of the country's Criminal Code in May of 2013.

That law reads, "every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal shall be liable to imprisonment for ten years."  Orozco told the court that the law criminalizes intimacy between gay men who are consenting adults, and it violates their rights.

Today, the Chief Justice handed down the momentous decision – planting a stake for gay rights in the country's first culture war which featured public morality on one side, and individual freedom of choice on the other.

Indeed, very high stakes, and this morning the courtroom was packed with personalities from both sides of this divisive issue. He read the entire judgement which took him a whopping 1 hour and 29 minutes. The judge has ruled that Section 53 of the Criminal Code has on a homosexual man is disproportionate. It contributes to prejudice, and lends itself to the stigma that all gay men should be treated like criminals. The judge says that as a consequence, it degrades and devalues gay men, by offending their right to human dignity.

He ruled that Section 53 is in breach of the constitutional rights of gay citizens, and it needs to be amended. To fix the offensive legislation, the judge has made an order that there will be an additional clause which will be added to the law. That new clause reads quote, "This section shall not apply to consensual sexual acts between adults."

The fix preserves its intended use to criminalize the sodomy of boys who are under the age of consent, and it also criminalizes rape committed by one male on another.

It is a landmark decision which will be read worldwide, and studied very closely in the Caribbean.

7News had a front row seat for this morning's decision and we got the reaction from all sides. Daniel Ortiz reports:

Martha Carrillo - Excited About the Win
"We have arrived, we have arrived, we have arrived. The judge has ruled in our favour and there is no one who can take this moment away from us."

Caleb Orozco - Victorious Against Sodomy Law
"I have to say I am extremely laded and I'm saying laded, I'm speechless right now but because today is really really important I will as you guys to join me at UWI for 2 o'clock to do a more extensive discussion and I would hope that you all could make it for 2 o'clock. This is huge for me!"

That was the mood of elation from those within the local LGBT community and their sympathizers after hearing that the judge had ruled in Caleb's favour. Consensual sex between gay men is legal and no longer punishable under Belizean law. 

Lisa Shoman, SC - Attorney for UNIBAM
"I think we won on all the points that we had ask the chief justice to rule on. The offending section for 53 has been read down which means it will be amended to exclude any acts between consenting adults in privacy. That is the essence of the ruling so the luke of section 53 will change; the court has the power to do that."

The LGBT community is no doubt rejoicing about the outcome, but if you asked the Church leader who were out there today, Belize as a nation finally flipped the moral switch to turn on the countdown to its destruction. They were not the least bit concerned about being perceived as alarmists.

Pastor Lance Lewis - Pres. National Evangelical Assoc of Belize
"This is an abomination to reach to this point we are now allowing sex; it's going to move further down."

Richard Smith - Christian Leader
"Today is a dishonour to the living god. It's a shame that this come out couple days after Hurricane Earl. Earl is a revelation, see everything happen god has it set on timing to show Belize to show the chief justice and to show the nation his blessing on this nation; we get a direct hit, the entire nation of Belize nobody died. It went a tropical depression, tropical storm, killed 38 in Mexico."

Patrick Menzies - Christian Leader
"It's over it's just the beginning of the end."

But did it really?

Daniel Ortiz
"The situation has changed yet our lord and saviour has not struck Belize off the face of the map. Things continue as per normal, why is this such a big deal for the church?"

Pastor Lance Lewis - Pres. National Evangelical Assoc of Belize
"The church believes in marriage between a man and a woman and therefore sex between a man and a woman is what the church believes. To make a law now that strike out the law that says it's okay to have between male and male, female and female is against the word of god, it is in my mind against the original constitution of Belize and therefore it will bring all types of ills on our society. We already have several problems this year, storms of different types and maybe more."

Marisol Amaya - Krem
"There's a lack of evidence on the part of the churches to back up the principles that you are trying to push as argument."

Pastor Lance Lewis - Pres. National Evangelical Assoc of Belize
"Well we are going by the bible and that allows us to back up our arguments from the bible."

Daniel Ortiz
"But sir the bible also says that Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed because of this issue. Nothing has happened like that."

Pastor Lance Lewis - Pres. National Evangelical Assoc of Belize
"Well it wasn't destroyed immediately it took a time. We will go that road if we don't turn around and if anybody goes that road will find the same result; destruction; because to go against god's word is to bring destruction on one self."

And these men of the cloth say that the onus is on the Christian community and the general population to press the reset button to try to reverse what they see as the moral decay unfolding in real time.

Pastor Lance Lewis - Pres. National Evangelical Assoc of Belize
"We have to get in our knees and pray that god will bring about a revival, god will bring about a change."

Patrick Menzies - Christian Leader
"The people still govern the country and we can demand to our senior leadership which is our government that we retract this mess and I believe that Belize needs to take to the street and have this thing retracted. Problem is that Belize you weren't paying attention. Section 46 was changed already."

Pastor Lance Lewis - Pres. National Evangelical Assoc of Belize
"And the church now that has been sleeping will have to arise and wake up and get militant in the sense of get on its knees and stand up for the things of god."

But, what if the court's decision sort of reflects changing norms in a less Christian, less conservative Belizean society?

Daniel Ortiz
"Do you consider whether or not your view has now been decreasing the minority view because Belize seems to be a lot more tolerant; live and let live."

Richard Smith - Christian Leader
"Right but we have to make choices because if we continue tolerate the attack in our minors. The attack is on the family values and you and I know two men together cannot produce."

Judging by the reaction of these members of the church, the challenge to the Chief Justice's decision may be imminent at the Court of Appeal.

Richard Smith - Christian Leader
"When they rejoice and say love won out, love will win out because god is going to show us where we are."

Martha Carrillo - Excited About the Win
"It's an incredible feeling today that we're experiencing 3 years of waiting for many but a life time for us the persons who have been experiencing the stigma and discrimination. People say that there is no stigma, no discrimination. Just look at Facebook and look at all the offensive things that we have had to be encountering."

Pastor Lance Lewis - Pres. National Evangelical Assoc of Belize
"But god has his own plans and god will intervene in his own time."

Pastor Lance Lewis - Pres. National Evangelical Assoc of Belize
"Section 53 is only one of many laws that will be changed because of the gender policy. The gender policy asks for many other sections to be changed; 53 is only one. I have proof where they are already switching in the school in Santa Elena Cayo where they are already switching male gender to female gender; they are already doing it right now."

The Government of Belize must also pay costs. The legal battle featured legal luminaries such as British Queen's Counsel Lord Peter Goldsmith; Trinidadian Senior Counsels, Chris Hamel-Smith and Westmin James; and local high-powered attorneys including Senior Counsels Eamon Courtenay; Godfrey Smith; Simeon Sampson; Rodwell Williams; Michel Chebat;  and Lisa Shoman.

UNIBAM: And Justice For All...

So, as you saw in our story, Caleb Orozco and his legal team asked us to attend a press conference at the UWI Open Campus.

That's the Belize home-away-from-home for the UWI Rights Advocacy Project known as U-RAP's Faculty of Law which was pivotal in getting this case to the Supreme Court on behalf of Orozco and UNIBAM.

Today, Orozco's legal team sat down and explained the significance of the ruling, and the fact the churches cannot force an appeal. That appeal will have to come from the Attorney General and the Government of Belize, and they have only a short window to file it:

Westim James, SC - Attorney for Caleb
"We found that Caleb's rights to human dignity, privacy, equality before the law, equal protection of the law and freedom of expression were breached. The court then read down the legislation to exclude consensual same sex intimacy in private."

"I think the question that you asking is what is the role of the interested parties in namely the churches in relation to moving forward. The interested parties included the church would let just that. They were interested parties in the case and they were allowed by the court to give their views. Subsequently either side has a certain amount of time to appeal, that will be the claimants or the Attorney General. Those are the parties in the cases, all other person were interested parties who could according to the court give their views."

Caleb Orozco - Victorious Against Sodomy Law
"I believe if the prime minister himself has said that the state will not shake it's responsibility September 2013 speech; I believe it's time for him to express the substance of that speech in how the state responds to the government's approach to this case at the next level of the judiciary. I also believe the government supported the gender policy and the ideals of ensuring that all citizens issues are addressed and that their primary focus is the development of its citizens and in that regard it's now in the governments hand to then respond in a constructive and responsible way that gives life to the ideals of the judgement that has been given today."

So, what does it mean personally for Orozco and other persons within the local gay community? You might dismiss it as an esoteric or arcane issue, since none of us have ever heard of gay men being arrested for their sexual practices. So, then the judgment could seems kind of like affirming a non entity – since, gays are not being actively persecuted for their sex acts.  But that's an inaccurate conclusion, says the gay community. They say that they've experienced countless instances of institutional insult and indifference, which they've kept quiet about for fear of further victimization. It also has a personal implication for Orozco himself, since he's the face of this bold challenge to the Sodomy law. But when you're tinkering with one of society's hot switches, success can be a curse.  Today, he told us that he will now have to be extra careful.

Caleb Orozco - Victorious Against Sodomy Law
"When it comes to employment our people have a basic aspiration to work, eat and shelter just like everybody else and in that regard they must have the protection like every other citizen. It is unacceptable for me to be renting a house and then have my land lord tell me I need to leave because the roof needs to fix and then later find out that he never liked the person I was living with. The land lord has no right to tell who I should or should not sleep with, the only thing the land lord should have concern with is whether I'm playing him or her my monthly rent in time."

"Do you feel you will be targeted more so now because the ruling is in your favour as the claimant? Where do you stand on that?"

Caleb Orozco - Victorious Against Sodomy Law
"My security issues will never go away because I am the face say for the lack of a better word this will never make it to news; I'm the facey b**** that bothered to challenge the status quo in our society and manage to get a response that was meaningful. Nobody likes somebody to challenge status quo in fact it makes them insecure, it brings fear and misunderstanding and in their society violence is used as a social mechanism to put you in your place. They will always be 1 crazy cow, 1 vindictive person who will use me as a scape goat and take whatever issues they have out on me. So I will continue, I will have to continue to be conscious about where I walk, where I drive, who I hang out with, where I go in terms of entertainment and now I don't go out in Belize City. If I walk it's from my car which I hope continues work to the bank and back. I don't walk very far late at night, if I walk it's to buy chicken. My point is I and I alone have the personal burden of my security."

The UNIBAM legal team also took a few questions from the press in which we put a few of the concerns from the Christian community to them. Is the next step for Belize a push for same-sex marriage? That's what the media asked Orozco, who responded that he makes no apologies for it should the LGBT community want that:

Caleb Orozco - Victorious Against Sodomy Law
"If my community wants to fight for gay marriage we now know they have every right to go to court and litigate the issue. My organisation is concerned with socioeconomic, civil and political rights issue of the community."

Daniel Ortiz
"The members of the church we spoke to today they seem to have this chicken little the sky is falling type mentality. This is the end of the morale decay in Belize, what do you all make of all that?"

Lisa Shoman, SC - Attorney for UNIBAM
"My perspective and I'll give it to you as the perspective of a feminist. When I was a young feminist I was that if we change the law on divorce or if we change the law in the criminal code that said that once you are married you gave your consent irrevocably; if we change that the sacred institution of marriage would collapse. There is Dolores Balderamos in the back; she drove the charge to remove to a great extent not totally that law. The "sacred institution" of marriage has not collapsed but it tells you that every time there are these social movements whether it be the right for adult women to vote, the right for people of colour to own property, the right for universal adult suffrage. Every time there is one of these social movements you're told that the sky is going to fall in and that we're all going to hell in a hand basket. All that has happened Daniel is we've become a more morale society, more understanding of the fact that we all have equality before the law."

"It was interesting to hear Patrick Menzies make the suggestion that anal and other forms of intercourse were already decriminalize; his words by section 46 of the criminal code."

Lisa Shoman, SC - Attorney for UNIBAM
"Mr. Menzies is not an attorney. The brief answer to that is his argument is utterly and completely without merit, let's leave it there." 

As you heard, we challenged the church leaders today if the decision simply reflects a more tolerant society. Today, we asked Orozco the same thing and he made the point that because of the challenge, he's brought more heat on himself. But, on the flip side, he has encountered other Belizeans who are more open minded about this issue:

Caleb Orozco - Victorious Against Sodomy Law
"I could remember a Christian woman about 60 years old. I thought she was crazy, I was walking to my mom near civic centre and normally I'm extremely defensive when I walk the street that far but she essentially said don't worry I'm here to hug you, not hurt you and I allowed her to hug me and it was the strangest feeling because it was the first time I realised that there are people of Christian faith who are not intolerant. I never asked the woman her name, I never asked her why she was hugging me, I simply accepted the hug because I know as a person I have to accept the hate right along with the love that comes with it; that's one example. Another example is in the early part of the case I remember when I was going to Belmopan and while most people would not open their mouth and say stop that, there was a gentleman on the bus who actually said "ih no the fass with you, it's none of your business, why don't you just shut up." And that was the second time I realised that people were thinking about the dignity that I am concerned with and not who I'm sleeping with."

"We don't have to be out there Daniel but people of the community who got; people like Kelvin Rhamda who created a page to assist UNIBAM and Caleb in bringing this challenge who got people to come in, everyday people that we consider heterosexual people from certain places in government and things like that to assist with the challenge. And to all those people I would like to say on behalf of the community thank you, thank you and thank you."

After the Chief Justice hands down the written decision, which is still pending, The Government has 21 days to file an appeal if they should so choose.

Framing The Gay Rights Issue

And so the judgment on the Caleb Orozco/Unimbam case is in and the LBGT community won. But, it’s not as simple as that, and 5 years ago, Janelle Chanona looked at the multifarious and complex issues guiding this case:..

Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize, May 13th 2011
"I would limit myself to saying that the government as a government has taken the position that it needs to argue for the constitutionality of the law that is in place that's being challenged and so I would not go beyond that official position. I am not prepared to comment on my own physiological conviction or lack thereof. That is the official position of the government. This is one time when it might be wise for me to say nothing more."

Pastor Scott Stirm, Jubilee Ministries, Belmopan
"By natural law they cannot reproduce. Therefore they must recruit and I want to say this in the strongest terms possible. That's what this is all about. This is their evangelistic campaign."

Martha Carillo, Regional Discrimination Unit, PANCAP, CARICOM
"It is not about changing people's values, even to seek acceptance. I think the bottom line is that people need to be respected and we cannot have laws that disrespect the human rights of individuals."

Johnny Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"The party does not have a position as yet and we'll certainly have to discuss as a party before we have a position."

Pastor Louis Wade Junior, Talk Show Host, Christian Youth Motivational Speaker
"We love people. We love these people. We love all people. It is the behavior that we have a problem with."

Caleb Orozco, Executive President, United Belize Advocacy Movement
"I am willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to enforce my right and my freedom and to meet the needs of my wellbeing as a human being."

Janelle Chanona (stand-up)
"The subject of sex is typically an uncomfortable topic for Belizeans. But the debate over whether the laws should be changed to decriminalize sodomy in this country has ignited fiery reactions from both supporters and opponents."

As it currently stands, the Criminal Code of Belize states that “Every person who has carnal knowledge against the order of nature with any person or animal shall be liable for imprisonment for ten years.” But in early 2011, Caleb Orozco, the Executive President of the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) filed for judicial review of the law, contending that the words “any person or” should be removed because they are a violation of his Constitutional right to sexual freedom.

Caleb Orozco, Executive Director, UNIBAM
"The case is personal and it’s about reminding the system that my human rights isn’t about picking and choosing which you’ll support and which you will ignore. My human rights is total. It’s not to be mandated by the church because the church does not govern this country. Period."

If the law is changed, Belize would be only the second Caribbean country to decriminalize sodomy...Bahamas being the first. In May, that possible outcome prompted the Belize Council of Churches, which represents the major Christian denominations of Belize, as well as the Belize Association of Evangelical Churches to join the case as interested parties. The religious leaders insist Belize’s very soul is at stake.

Bishop Dorrick Wright, Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Belize
"We have the story from the old testament of Sodom and Gomorrah, God destroyed a whole country, a whole place because of this same reason. I am not certain if he will do this to the United States where it seems to be popular and getting very common, but I don't think we have to follow what the United States does and I think we should think for ourselves and see what would be the evil outcome of this whole thing if we get into changing the laws of our country to permit same sex marriage and children must be taught that this is an acceptable way of life and you know its just down right wrong."

Good morning Belize and welcome to another edition of Rise and Shine, my name is Louis Wade.

One of the most vocal opponents to the gay rights case has been talk show host and Christian Youth motivational speaker, Pastor Louis Wade Junior.

Pastor Louis Wade Junior, Talk Show Host/Motivational Speaker
"Mark my words, it starts with one lawsuit, when this lawsuit is over, if they get their way, the next set of lawsuits will be against the social security board and other large organizations, insurance companies that must give compensation not only a person but also to their spouse. The third set of litigation is going to be church and religious denominations across the nation when they refuse to marry homosexual couples. And then the final set of mass litigation will be against people who stand up and say that this kind of practice is wrong."

Pastor Scott Stirm, Jubilee Ministries, Belmopan
"Presently in the United Kingdom, there are lawsuits trying to lower the age of consent. That proves to me, the agenda. They are after the children, they are recruiting campaigns and it’s for people that have, I would say, demented sexual practices and they want to go after the kids. That is happening globally, all over the world. It’s called the child sex trade and this is another expression of that same exact agenda. They want to go to younger and younger ages. And again, these are the things that cause us to stand up and rise with a lion’s roar and say “no way”, we will not allow this to happen, not only our watch."

Both Wade and his Christian colleague Pastor Scott Stirm insist that no one is born gay and maintain Belize’s laws should uphold rights, not choices.

Pastor Scott Stirm, Jubilee Ministries
"It’s a learnt behavior...it’s something people pick up along the way. But I have ministered to I would say countless people, particularly in sexual abuse situations and the majority of them have been sexually abused. When you understand clinical homosexual behavior and clinical homosexual foundations, the absence of the fatherly role plays a huge factor. So you have people that have classic foundations for homosexuality. But then you have other people that just pick up from basic influence of perversion or exposing to pornography and the power of suggestion and things like that."

Louis Wade, Jr., Christian Youth Motivation Speaker, Talk Show Host
"If they are born that way, it will be found in their genes. Where is the gene? I have met ex-gays and ex-lesbians but I have never met ex-blacks person, this is not a civil rights issue."

Similarly strong sentiments were also voiced in February 1998 when the cruise ship the MS Leeward docked in Belize carrying eight hundred and sixty gay men onboard. For Orozco, that incident and his own experiences highlights that he is living in a homophobic society, which is why the majority of Belizean men who have sex with men live secret lives.

Caleb Orozco, Executive President, UNIBAM
"Some of the things they say were like faggot, bonefire, they basically use a lot of the Jamaican dancehall slangs to let me know where my place is and that’s rather frustrating because all I was doing was going to buy condense milk. I don’t believe that I deserve to be treated like that especially if I’m not looking at you or harassing you in any way."

"I need my freedom to be honest with people. I perpetuate my own discrimination or my own experience of homophobia by remaining silent."

Martha Carillo, Technical Associate, Regional Stigma and Discrimination Unit, PANCAP, CARICOM
"Very few people will come to a workshop, very few people will access services at a health centre if they know the minute they step in they are going to be ridiculed or they are going to be treated any less than anybody else."

Martha Carillo is Technical Associate of the PANCAP Regional Stigma and Discrimination Unit. Carillo recently concluded a baseline study on stigma and discrimination with various focus groups, the media, the police, the Belize Defence Force and the religious community about populations such as men who have sex with men.

Martha Carillo, Technical Associate, Stigma and Discrimination Unit, PANCAP
"The preliminary findings are indicating that stigma and discrimination are very much alive in Belize and it is coming from sectors that make it even more scarier for all of us. Because you would think that some of these would be sectors that would be embracing, loving, protecting, providing security and the experiences that have been shared with us indicate to us that we really are living in a critical situation and something needs to be done. And if we have laws, practices and policies that are contributing to this then it needs to be addressed in a very frank and genuine manner."

Ivan Cruikshank, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition
"The most effect response to address HIV and AIDS has to be addressing the social and legal environment, within the country."

According to Ivan Cruickshank, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, countries with high HIV prevalence rates, like Belize, should be supporting every effort to eradicate stigma and discrimination to curb the spread of the disease.

Ivan Cruikshank
"At all levels we are saying to policy makers, review your existing legal and policy environment so that people feel that this is a space that they can come forward and engage with the health care system...that’s a big issue for us."

Maurice Tomlinson, AIDS Free World
"This is about bringing everybody to the table, not leaving anybody out. Because when you exclude people, that is when you provide an opportunity for harm and hate and disease to spread. And these diseases don’t generally stay within the vulnerable groups."

Pastor Louis Wade Junior
"It is a lie. The evidence shows for example in Belize that HIV and AIDs is driven not by the homosexual community but by the heterosexual community. That is well defined in Belize. It is also well defined throughout the Caribbean."

The pastors refute the argument that laws criminalizing sodomy have a direct relation to HIV prevalence rates.

Louis Wade
"I am talking about statistics in European, in England, in Canada, in the United States, in Sweden. These are places where homosexuals have the most freedom in the world, MSM - they have the most freedom, this is where they are not in the closet. Yet the statistics are showing that the HIV rate continues to rise in their circles."

Pastor Scott Stirm, Jubilee Ministries
"At a United Nations level, they have an agenda, they are people in there that that have an agenda and they are pushing that agenda and one of the things that is fueling some of this in Belize is the financial aid that comes from the European Union is coming with stipulations that you must change these laws or we are going to cut you off financially, 'you won’t get any more assistance from us’ and so that’s one of the factors when we talk about why are people hemming and hawing over this issue, it’s because there’s big bucks behind it."

Caleb Orozco
"They are free to form an opinion; an opinion does not provide the basis for reality. It simply offers an expression or description of an issue. Period."

"Cultural attitude isn’t going to change because of one judgment...because of the misrepresentation of the facts and the fear mongering being sold by the religious politicians. There will be years and years around what really is sexual orientation and to an extent, gender identity and what does that actually mean for the individual."

Janelle Chanona (stand-up)
"In the months leading up to this trial, proponents and opponents of this issue will no doubt campaign heavily in their efforts to help you answer the fundamental question of this case: “Should the state legislate morality?” Because make no mistake, whatever decision is handed down in the courtroom, keeping the status quo or changing attitudes towards sexual minorities will be decided on in the court of public opinion. Reporting for 7News I am Janelle Chanona."

Again, that story was from 2011 – the case finally went to court on 2013 –and the landmark decision affirming the human rights of LGBT persons was handed down today.

Channel 7

#516826 - 08/13/16 12:18 PM Re: Caleb Orozco wins his case! [Re: Marty]
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#516849 - 08/15/16 11:05 AM Re: Caleb Orozco wins his case! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Section 53 ruling – What does it truly mean?

By Colette Kase

If you have been reading or watching the news or social media, you will have heard that there was a case ruled in the Belize Supreme Court on the 10th of August 2016. You probably know it is something to do with ‘gays’ and you may or may not have an opinion on that. In fact, you probably are not even sure what the case was about. Please allow me to assist.

Several years ago I met a young man called Caleb. He was shy, geeky and always just a little bit nervous. He grew up with little or nothing, just like so many other young men, in the south side of Belize City. He also happened to be a gay man. This is where his life differed greatly from many of his peers. You see, Belize was, until the 10th of August, one of 76 countries that criminalise homosexuality in one way or another.

Surprisingly to many, Belize’s law was not gender specific, nor did it mention homosexuality. Section 53 of the Criminal Code simply referred to ‘intercourse against the order of nature with any other person’ and came with the generous prison sentence of 10 years. Technically, this meant that any sex act not performed exclusively for the purpose of procreation was outlawed, whether you were gay or straight. The problem was that this law had been used exclusively to stigmatise and discriminate against LGBT people and this is what the Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin found in his ruling.

Three years ago I sat in the Supreme Court and watched Caleb Orozco metamorphasise from the socially awkward, quiet young man I knew into a freedom fighter. He, as an individual, took the government of Belize to the Supreme Court and made it very clear that as a Belizean, he had the right to the same protections under the Constitution of Belize as any other citizen and the fact that he was gay shouldn’t change that.

It took three years for the ruling to finally be read. During that time, Caleb became known worldwide as a human rights campaigner and the New York Times featured him on the front cover of their magazine. Caleb’s case was artfully handled by some of the best legal minds.

For the reading, two highly respected lawyers, Lisa Shoman, who has served as Senator, Foreign Minister and Ambassador for Belize, and Westmin James, a litigation specialist in human rights and social justice from the University of the West Indies, who both represented Caleb through this challenge, were present to hear what is a historic ruling in the Caribbean for LGBT people.

The Chief Justice decided that Caleb Orozco had, indeed, been discriminated against and found in his favour making it clear that consensual sex between gay adults is not a crime…oh, and where the constitution of Belize talks about protecting all people from discrimination, sexual orientation is covered.

But what does it really mean? I’m so glad you asked because there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about this ruling and I’d like to sort that out for you right now.

  • LGBT Belizeans in consensual relationships will no longer be at risk of arrest or extortion by those using this law to criminalise their sexuality and relationships.
  • LGBT Belizeans will be able to access health care and other services without fear of stigmatisation.
  • LGBT Belizeans are now guaranteed, along with all other Belizeans, to be protected from discrimination according to the Constitution of Belize.
  • People who have LGBT family members, children, friends and loved ones, no longer have to be so frightened and worried on their behalf.
  • LGBT people across the Caribbean may now have a better chance to gain equality in their own countries.
  • Straight people can have fun in the bedroom even if they aren’t trying to make babies and not be ‘unapprehended felons’.
  • Any non-consensual sex, including sex with minors and animals, continues to be an offence.
  • There will be no orgies in the street.
  • LGBT tourists are welcome to come and spend lots and lots of money here knowing that they are supporting a country that protects the rights of all of its citizens.

That’s about it. There has been some wailing about the end of the world by a small, vocal minority. It appears that they find the idea of two men having sex disgusting. I can understand that. The thought of quite a few people I encounter day to day having sex would also disgust me. Please allow me to resolve that problem. Stop thinking about other people having sex. Once you do that, you’ll discover that unless you are gay, this ruling really hasn’t changed anything.

For Caleb, everything has changed. He’s a bit of a hero now and for the first time in his adult life, he is no longer considered a criminal for being who he is. Oh, and I can proudly call a real life hero my friend. Love wins.

San Pedro Sun

#516874 - 08/16/16 11:10 AM Re: Caleb Orozco wins his case! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Faber Says Voters Should Decide On Gay Sex

Today when we had a chance to interview the Deputy Prime Minister we asked him about the recent Supreme Court judgment legalizing gay sex between adults. Faber was cautious saying that he first needs to ask the people of his constituency what they think before putting forth a position:..

Hon. Patrick Faber, Deputy Prime Minister
"In that instance I would then act as an agent of the people who I serve, as oppose to giving my own personal view. How is it that I will determine what the views of those who I represent are is something I have given great consideration to over the last few days, whether that means that, I don't think that Facebook or social media is a good indicator although that seems to be the court of public opinion in these days. But maybe some kind of survey or check moving around the constituency to see what the views of constituents are or maybe to the extent of us as a nation having a referendum to let the Belizean people decide how is it that they want to see us move. I think it's such a big decision that the Belizean people should have a say and that we should not have necessarily individual leaders and lawmakers impressing on the Belizean people their own personal and individual views."

Jules Vasquez
"However, human rights is not a negotiable subject. The argument is that homosexuals or LGBT community should be afforded all the right and free from the discrimination just as any other citizen. So that isn't if you believe that, then that isn't something that you can vote for or against. It a matter of fact."

Hon. Patrick Faber, Deputy Prime Minister
"Well I hear your position loud and clear. I think though that it would, as I said to one person who asks me, it would depend if you really consider that a right and that a human right and that is a question that I think is up in the air and I'm telling you, I do have my own personal view on this matter which I will not share because I don't want to poison any later position that people might want to take."

Channel 7

#516877 - 08/16/16 11:21 AM Re: Caleb Orozco wins his case! [Re: Marty]
Katie Valk Offline
Aye, another idiot who aspires to be pm.
Belize based travel specialist

#516898 - 08/17/16 11:00 AM Re: Caleb Orozco wins his case! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Reports: GOB Won’t Appeal CJ Decision

Will the Government of Belize appeal the Chief Justice's landmark decision on section 53 of the criminal code? Six days ago the CJ ruled that it was unconstitutional to discriminate against homosexuals and re-worded the section to say it "shall not apply to consensual sexual acts between adults in private." Yesterday, you heard Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber suggest that the matter should be put to a referendum, while former Attorney General Wilfred Elrington told PLUS TV that he thinks the government should appeal it:...

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Former Attorney General
"Some sections of the public are not happy with the decision and I think that we should do all in powers to ventilate the matter as widely as possible, so that nobody can say or have any criticisms of the government."

Well, tomorrow Prime Minister Dean Barrow will announce government's official position on the judgment. He will do so at a press conference at the Biltmore Plaza at 2:30 pm. Our sources say that the Government will NOT appeal the judgment - which will surely be to the dismay of many Christian critics of the Chief Justice's decision.

And Opposition Leader John Briceno knows the sting of that only too well. This weekend, he boldly forged ahead with a second statement on the judgment. His initial statement was cautious, simply saying he respects the court's decision, but his second statement - which is being read as pro-gay - has stirred a firestorm of controversy on Facebook.

It says, quote, "Since the Chief Justice handed down his decision in the Caleb Orosco matter, many harmful comments have been made. Most disturbing was and threats and the call for harm to be done to people in the LGBT Community…respect and tolerance must always prevail over bigotry and hate." It continues, "I remind everyone of the words of Pope Francis who said: "who am I to judge?" It is not Belizean to hate; bigotry is also not Belizean. We are a people who value peace and we love, love. We who are PUP say the "PUP da LOVE!" Let us together banish fear and ignorance and embrace diversity. Let us respect each other, and never forget that it is our diversity which makes us strong."

Well, from what we're told many higher-up's in the PUP are not "loving" that statement one bit, and reports say Briceno yesterday had a lengthy meeting with senior members of his executive yesterday to try and arrive at a consensus. Our reports say the PM has already arrived at that concensus when Cabinet met today.

Channel 7

#516933 - 08/18/16 11:18 AM Re: Caleb Orozco wins his case! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

GOB Will Not Appeal CJ Decision On Sodomy Law, Here’s Why:

Last night we broke the news that the government of Belize would not appeal the Chief Justice's decision to legalize gay sex between consenting adults. Well, today that was confirmed in a press conference where the Attorney General Vanessa Retreage explained why the government will not appeal:…

Hon. Vanessa Retreage - Attorney General
"The government has closely considered the option of appealing and has sought legal advice as to the possible merits and benefits of appealing. In this regard it is noted that there were 7 interested organisations which argued the case a part from the claimant and the government with no less than 15 attorneys representing them. Government is therefore satisfied that the case was properly argued and does not see any aspect of the decision that would benefit from further argument and as such has taken the decision not to appeal. It is also conscious that the option of appealing is open to 1 or more of the interested parties and it is not the government's intent to influence or in any way preclude any legal steps which others may consider that they wish to pursue. The government is however satisfied that it must not appeal simply for the sake of appealing but must ensure that its actions best serves the interest of the Belizean people. The court has decided that Section 53 which challenged was a law which criminalised private sexual conduct between consenting adults and therefore discriminated against the right to privacy and dignity. The government respects that decision and finding."

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister
"The very many members of cabinet who would want to make clear that their support of the decision taken must be placed in that narrow legal context. It should not be interpreted as any blanket support for LGBT positions. Similarly there are members of cabinet who do support those positions and that is why it is so important to make clear that where cabinet comes together and is prepared to act as one in a united fashion is on this question of the legal merits of the decision given by the honourable chief justice."

PM Says Judgment Is Not Greenlight To Gay Marriage

And while the not-so-veiled references to "closets" is one thing – gay marriage is what all of this is really about.  After the decriminalization of anal sex between consenting adults – is the next step going to be the push to legalize gay marriage? That's the primary concern of the various church groups but the Prime Minister said that he doesn't accept that interpretation one bit:..

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister
"I don't agree that that's an inevitable or even necessary consequence of the chief justice's ruling. In fact I hold the opposite view and cabinet is also convinced that this does not open the door for gay marriage. Nothing can stop the people who believe in that from agitating, from taking legal action but it is not fair to the chief justice's ruling in my view to suggest that ruling in any way opens the door to that. This was a matter of striking down or reading down a section of the criminal code that imposed criminal sanctions on what was even on actions that were consensual. That's a far cry; it's a huge leap to go from there to suggest that somehow the door is open to gay marriage. No gender policy will emerge in consequence of the chief justice's ruling and do or set out some of the things that the churches seem to fear are inevitable consequences; it won't happen. Nothing will change except as I said in this narrow regard; I can in good conscience say to the nation that in so far as the claimants are concerned they have been given what is without a doubt a shield, they have not been given a sword."

"If people were to try to press upon the government that government must in an activist way promote some sort of law that would alter the current legal position in this country that marriage is between a man and a woman. Again the claimants have every right to do whatever they wish to do. I am telling you now government, this government will not countenance that if there are to be legal challenges entirely different from the question of criminalising anal sex. If there are to be legal initiatives meant to upend the institution of marriage as we know in this society, government will absolutely and fervently and ferociously resist that sir."

PM Says Churches Should Appeal

And while Cabinet goes on the strict legalities – as the attorney General says, the churches can freely pursue an appeal.  They were only interested parties in the case, and have been advised that they cannot appeal – that's the sole prerogative of the respondent, which is the government of Belize.  Today the Prime Minister and the Attorney General insisted that the churches can in fact proceed with their own appeal:…

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister
"No sir you are perfectly free to apply to court to be given leave to appeal. As I understand it you need not even been an interested party to be able to get leave to appeal as long as you can show that the decision of the court affects you; you are entitled for a leave to appeal. In this case because you were interested parties it strikes me that you are almost immediately and automatically there."

Luis Wade - Plus TV
"Would any of you sight a legal precedence that we could follow on to ensure that this kind of appeal is permitted?"

Hon. Vanessa Retreage - Attorney General
"In response to your question I will say 2 things. First I am fully employed by the government of Belize and so I cannot give you legal advice. Secondly I will say that you must check the Supreme Court rules as it relates to the role of interested parties. You must examine critically the role that you played; the churches played in this litigation and take the guidance from there."

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister
"I would add to that by siting what is a very painful precedence. When a previous government conspired to have a sitting chief justice removed the action that produced that result was brought by a private citizen against the attorney general. The chief justice was not a party to the action but because it affected him and affected him fundamentally he did appeal."

Channel 7

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