Finally, It Begins: Caleb Vs. GOB - 05/08/13 10:55 AM
That’s Gay rights, and human rights on one side, and Church and state on the other – bigger than any heavyweight legal fight we’ve ever seen. After months of agitation and buildup, it finally started today, the first round in this culture war between public morality and individual freedom of choice.
Daniel Ortiz was in court all day, and here’s his report.
Daniel Ortiz reporting
Today, the Supreme Court was the stage for the most polarizing issue in Belize right now. Interested persons started to file in just after 9 a.m., where they met the strict police and civilian security. Posters discouraging the use of cellular phones and camera equipment were plastered on the walls for all to see. Our cameras were allowed across the street, with the security personnel hovering to remind us that we shouldn’t be there. According to them, it’s due to orders from the Chief Justice himself that cameras were not to be allowed near his court room for this particular case.
The first signal of the high stakes, but more would present itself when different VIP’s started to arrive.
Soon after, high-powered local attorneys, international lawyers, and even the Roman Catholic Bishop made an appearance.
Michel Chebat - Attorney for the Churches
"We have intervened in this court case because we feel that the issue at hand is a serious issue. It impacts our society and the morality of the society. It impacts family life in the society and the Churches feel that this is an area in which they should be heard before any changes are made to this law."
The man of the hour himself, Caleb Orozco, arrived later on. He was flanked by security to ensure his safe arrival at the court. According to Orozco, ever since he started pressing this issue, his personal security became important. Then everyone had to file into court and take their seats. With so many interested parties needing representation in the case, CJ Benjamin’s courtroom - the biggest in the country - could hardly accommodate all the legal luminaries.
Outside, persons gathered in prayerful silence, hoping stir a divine force to action in their favor.
Back inside the courtroom, Orozco’s main attorney, Chris Hamel-Smith, took the lead. His opening arguments fell like hammer blows, each striking with a sense of gravity. His presentation lasted for four and a half hours. No one gasped or exclaimed when Hamel-Smith asserted that Orozco is a homosexual man, but when he stated his client’s position, the issue was given a face.
Orozco minced no words yesterday when he answered to the criticism that he’s being used as a pawn for a foreign agenda. He called out Pastor Scott Stirm of Jubilee Ministries.
Stirm has been the driving force behind the campaign, Belize Action, in an effort to resist the challenge to the Criminal Code.
He stuck to his point and leveled a blow right back at Orosco and his attorneys:
Pastor Scott Stirm - Jubilee Ministries/Belize Action
"I've been here for thirty years and I've had my entire adult life and I've invested my whole life into this nation. In creole we would say I'm not 'coya' (Translated: Come Here) and if anybody is 'coya' are these ones that are 'coya' for jumping in our court room and trying to use our constitution against our laws and then they're going to jump on a plane and fly out of here and leave us with this mess. So no, we strongly oppose to that whole perception. The bottom line - let's take it to the Belizean people, let's find out what is the sentiment of the Belizean people. We took up this fight in response to the UNIBAM's initiative so we didn't pick this fight, we are responding. What we are saying is that the section 53 is a good law and we've done the research on this and the sections where we have found section 53 was used - 78% of those cases were sexual abuse cases against children. The UNIBAM has been blinded by their own desires and what it is that they are trying to push for change. Where as the statistics show that 78% where section 53 was used was abuse against children."
Orozco is the lifeblood of the challenge and he’s also the public lightning rod for a divisive issue - and he can’t turn that off when the matter has been decided. So far, though, he seems unperturbed by the public pressure.
"The claimants have been allotted five hours to present their case. Tomorrow the foreign interested parties, who support the claimants, will go on. After they are done it is expected that the attorney general will go on then. That is expected to last for most of tomorrow and then on Thursday morning we are expecting that we're going to have our turn to make our presentation to the court."
Tomorrow, Hamel-Smith will be given half-hour more to finish up his presentation. After that, the international interested parties will then present their oral submissions. We will continue to follow the case until it finishes on Friday.