UNIBAM Regains Ground In Court

The last time we told you about the UNIBAM constitutional challenge, they had suffered a minor loss to the Churches and the Attorney General Ministry.

The attorney for the Churches, Michel Chebat, was able to successfully argue before Justice Arana that UNIBAM be removed from the case as the second claimant for highly technical legal reasons.

It meant that the Caleb Orozco, the organization's Executive President, being the first claimant, was the only one who could continue the challenge.

Well, today, the matter went back to court, and UNIBAM's attorney, Lisa Shoman, made 2 applications before Justice Arana, the main one of which to get UNIBAM to join the case once again.

The position is that this organization represents over 100 persons who wish to remain anonymous, but believe that at section 53 of the constitution violates their rights to have sexual relations with same sex partners.

Shoman was successful on those 2 applications, and outside of court, 7News asked her and Orozco about the importance of today's outcome.

Here's what they said:

Lisa Shoman - Attorney for UNIBAM
" The previous ruling was that UNIBAM as an organization had no rights, especially no rights of privacy, no rights relating to how they conduct themselves sexually. As an organization, the organization does not actually reproduce or have sexual rights, so therefore, the organization was struck off. This application was different. It is saying that the members do have those rights and want UNIBAM to represent them. Essentially, what it has come down to is that UNIBAM has been appointed not as a representative claimant, but as an interested. It is now exactly on the same footing as the churches, no different. It will have every single right that the churches have to make arguments in this case. I am sure that everyone will have realized that the active defence in this matter are really the churches, not so much the Attorney General's Chambers. They are the ones - I think - who are more passionately interested - if that's the word - and so, UNIBAM is now back in the case on exactly the same footing as the churches."

Daniel Ortiz
"Before this case arose, no one knew of UNIBAM. What sort of status does it enjoy legally?"

Lisa Shoman
"It's a registered company, a registered association. It has a membership of over 120 persons. And in the affidavits that we put before the court, all of that was set out, including the type of advocacy work that it does, which is mainly for the MSMLGBT population in Belize."

Caleb Orozco - Executive President, UNIBAM
"Justice isn't as swift as one would think, and so, you have to have a strong stomach to deal with some of the challenges that come with bringing a case. I am able to do this because nobody will fire me. I am able to do this because - I am able to operate in an organization because I know who the landlord is. And so, I have a great deal of responsibility come down on my shoulders to represent those who could lose not only those basic rights to education and shelter, but basic rights to security, which I personally have experienced over the last few years. So, at the end of the day, what boils down to is whether or not you're stubborn enough to put up with the slow grinding process of the judicial system, or whether you'll be afraid and cover your tail."

Lisa Shoman
"Let's remind the public of one thing, it is during the course of already filing this case that Mr. Orozco was assaulted, and had teeth broken and severe bruising to his face. He was assaulted in the street by persons simply because he was identified as a member of the LGBT population in Belize. So, there are not too many people who feel secure enough, or who feel safe enough to come forward and allow themselves to be identified individually. You could ask the same of the churches. Why haven't individuals come forward and ask to be joined individually."

The substantive matter in this case will be argued to completion on May 7 to May 10 of next year.

Channel 7