Finally, It Begins: Caleb Vs. GOB

Posted By: Marty

Finally, It Begins: Caleb Vs. GOB - 05/08/13 10:55 AM

The case of Caleb Orozco against the Government of Belize started today before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin. Unless you’ve been under a rock somewhere, you’ll know that Orozco is challenging the constitutionality of Section 53 of Belize’s Criminal Code which says that quote, “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 says that violates his right to privacy, dignity and equality as a gay man. In a case that has become an international cause célčbre, he is joined by the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, the Human Dignity Trust, and the International Commission of Jurists. On the other side is the Government of Belize which is joined by Roman Catholic Church, the Belize Church of England Corporate Body, and the Belize Evangelical Association of Churches.

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.

Michel Chebat
"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.

Channel 7

Posted By: Marty

Re: Finally, It Begins: Caleb Vs. GOB - 05/09/13 10:53 AM

Hamel-Smith Says Church Doctrine Not Universally Against Decriminalization

Last night we showed you the beginning of the case between Caleb Orozco and the Government of Belize. Orozco is challenging Section 53 of Belize’s Criminal Code claiming that it violates his constitutional rights to privacy, dignity and equality as a gay man living in this country.

Well, it seems that the rhetoric from both sides is being dialed down somewhat now that it is before the courts.

The matter coming to the forefront now is that on one side, Orozco claims that the law needs to be declared unconstitutional because it violates his sexual freedom. And on the other side, those who support it say that it’s there to protect against male on male rape and child molestation.

This morning, Orozco’s lead attorney, Chris Hamel-Smith spoke to the media outside of court where he briefly discussed an argument he presented before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin.

According to Hamel-Smith, contrary to the public perception, the different churches around the world are not uniformly against the decriminalization of homosexuality. Here’s how he explained it.

Chris Hamel - Smith - Attorney for Caleb Orozco
"What I was suggesting is that the Belize constitution actually respects and cherishes diversity and that therefore one of the things we drew to the attention to the court is that while we respect the moral principles that Christians and other people may hold - even within the Christian community there are very diverse views as to whether it is appropriate to use the Criminal Law to impose penalties for homosexual conduct. We drew the court's attention to a very clear statement from the Vatican - the Holy Sea itself which was maintaining the Church's position as to the morality of homosexual conduct as a sin; they made it clear that they are against in using the Criminal Law against people for their homosexual nature or their conduct. Even more importantly given the connections, they shared history between colonial countries like Belize and South Africa, for example, in relation to the Anglican community. We drew the court's attention to a very powerful statement from Arch Bishop Tutu - one of the leaders on the anti-apartheid struggle in which he made it clear that he was completely opposed to laws such as section 53 which make it a crime to engage in homosexual conduct and that he saw those acclaim to the crimes that were used in South Africa to stop couples of different races for engaging in sexual activity with each other. He saw a direct relationship between them and suggested that one day, our children will look back and wonder how we could have criminalized those acts in the same way that we look back and wonder; how could civilized people have made it a crime to be black and love a white. That is what we asked the court to consider."

"Ian Taylor - he has been one of the leading voices coming out of the Catholic Church calling homosexuality an abomination. We asked him about that particular point of the statement coming out of the Holy Sea and he is saying that is completely erroneous what you are putting in front of the court. He is saying that that statement in fact came from a department head at the Vatican and it has in fact been corrected by the Vatican who has clarified their position in terms of Criminalization of homosexuality."

Chris Hamel - Smith
"Well, all I can say to that is this is case before the Belize court. That was an official statement issued under the letterhead of the Vatican and it was put into evidence months ago and the Catholic church joined as an interested party and had every opportunity if there is a further statement that they say is different to that to put that further statement in response before the court. It seems to be extraordinary that if a statement is made in a case which you have asked to become a party and you do not think that that statement is true then you don't tell the court? That does seem to me to be rather odd that he should be telling that to the media rather than allowing the judge to know about it. That's all I can say."

So, while Hamel-Smith took that position in court, outside, the members of the churches who attended the trial today explained their main issue with Orozco’s challenge to the criminal code.

Louis Wade Jr., who has been one of the most vocal opponents of decriminalization, told us that UNIBAM and Orozco have sought the wrong audience to remedy this violation of their sexual freedom.

Louis Wade, Jr. - Christian Youth Motivational Speaker, Talk Show Host
"As you continue to listen to the case - I'm going to ask the media and the representatives who have been allowed into the court room to ask yourself the simple question based upon the arguments that the attorneys are giving. Whether or not this situation should be in the court or it should be in parliament? And if you ask yourself that question you will notice that consistently the attorneys need to remind the judge what they are asking him to do is not legislating. Don't you believe that the first thing UNIBAM should have done, if they were so interested in removing this law that they claim to be discriminatory, while at the same time protecting the rights of the most innocent of people who 80% of the times when this law is used against minors. Would you not first work to ensure that a legal safety net is properly in place before you attempt to remove the law? No conscience! Is there no thought of the entire community? Because the homosexual community is not the only community that exists in this country. There is an assortment of communities and most definitely before you are interested as a consenting adult to allow something that is illegal to become legal. As a consenting adult will you not first take care of the affairs of those who cannot consent, which is the children?"

Hamel-Smith finished his presentation this morning – which totaled six hours over two days. He was followed by Lord Peter Goldsmith who appears on behalf of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, the Human Dignity Trust, and the International Commission of Jurists – all of whom are supporting Orozco. His presentation lasted a little over 5 hours.

Channel 7

Posted By: Marty

Re: Finally, It Begins: Caleb Vs. GOB - 05/09/13 11:22 AM

Belize Council of Churches issue press release on homosexuality

In response to the lawsuit filed by Orosco, the Belize Council of Churches issued a press release today. The Belize Council of churches is made up of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Belize City and Belmopan, The Anglican Diocese of Belize, The Belize/Honduras District of the Methodist Church, The Salvation Army, The Black Cross Nurses and the YWCA. The release says, “The Belize Council of Churches believes, maintains, and upholds the Biblical position that: God created human beings and purposefully made them male and female. He created them male and female that they may complement each other; that sexual companionship must be between a man and a woman; that they will reproduce and multiply the world. No one can refute the fact that two men or two women cannot reproduce naturally. From God’s plan we see that same gender sexual activity is wrong. In the eyes of God homosexuality is a sin. The Bible clearly condemns all homosexual practices. The Belize Council of Churches further believes that, The arguments from the Homosexual Community supporting their view on sex and sexuality, sexual orientation and behaviour, the concept of the family and human reproduction, the promotion of same sex union, are biblically unfounded and theologically unsound. The Belize Council of Churches condemns the lawsuit filed against the Government of Belize and declares that the laws of Belize must reflect God’s law and therefore takes a stand against any and all changes in the Constitution of Belize that will not promote the sanctity of human sexual relations as established by God. The Belize Council of Churches also condemns any act of violence, intimidation, and discrimination towards any individual, group or organization, despite their orientation and/or preference, including and especially that which may be as a result of homophobia. The Council believes that violence is not the solution to our differences within our society, and therefore encourages a peaceful and pastoral approach in dealing with the social ills that affect our nation.”


Posted By: Marty

Re: Finally, It Begins: Caleb Vs. GOB - 05/09/13 11:30 AM

super first person coverage here:
Posted By: Marty

Re: Finally, It Begins: Caleb Vs. GOB - 05/10/13 11:09 AM

Hamel-Smith Recaps Orozco Case

While that was the position from Lord Peter Goldsmith this morning, late this evening, we were able to catch up once again with Christopher Hamel-Smith, Orozco’s lead attorney.

After hearing the arguments presented by the state and the Church we asked him to comment on the position that this matter is for the Belizean people and the Legislature to decide on.

His response was that the Courts are the guardians and the interpreters of one of the best written constitutions in the Caribbean, which allows for an ideal challenge to the sodomy laws here.

Christopher Hamel-Smith, QC - Attorney for Caleb Orozco
"The constitution of Belize says expressly that it is the Supreme Law of this country and that any other law to the extent that is inconsistent with the constitution is void. The only person in the country that is allowed to decide whether it is contravening the constitution in the country is the courts; that is the job of the courts so that the judge has to answer the question. That doesn't mean the parliament cannot do its job but the courts are the guardians of the constitution, they have to interpret the constitution and they have to apply the constitution and I am sure they will do so; whichever party is right or wrong."

"Would it be too much to ask you for your feeling after the arguments?"

Christopher Hamel-Smith
"My feeling after the arguments - we haven't finished the arguments but my feeling about the case all along is that we have an extremely powerful case. The constitution of Belize is an extremely well written document. One of the advantages Belize had is that it developed its constitution later than some of the Caribbean islands. Clearly whoever did the drafting and the framing of the Belize constitution paid a lot of attention to some of the weaknesses that were discovered in the other constitutions in the Caribbean and took great care to fill those gaps, so that one of the reasons why this case is taking place in Belize is because the Belize constitution is a particularly well drafted document that provides very clear guidance to the court, to the government, and to the people of Belize."

Tomorrow, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay will finish with his submissions on behalf of the Church, and Hamel-Smith will be given a brief opportunity to respond.

Lord P. Goldsmith Speaks On Orozco Case

For the past 2 days, the Caleb Orozco’s challenge to the Government of Belize has been extensively aired before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin. Queen’s Counsels Christopher Hamel-Smith and Lord Peter Goldsmith made a total of about 11 hours of arguments in court as to why Section 53 of the Criminal Code is offensive and should be struck down.

Well today, the Government of Belize was given a chance to respond, and Deputy Solicitor General Nigel Hawke defended the law before the court. The strength of his argument was on the central point that the rights Orozco is claiming do not exist in the Belize constitution. According to Hawke, nowhere in the written text of the constitution does it name a right to privacy, human dignity and sexual orientation.

He submitted further that the court does not have the jurisdiction to imply, impute or impose these supposed rights into the constitution because it would be giving itself legislative powers, which violate the doctrine of the separation of powers.

Hawk’s presentation lasted 3 hours.

And while that was today, yesterday Lord Peter Goldsmith represented his international clients yesterday. We asked him about his clients’ interest in the outcome of this case, and about that prevailing perception that there’s a foreign agenda at work.

He told us that contrary to the widely held belief, he was not retained to press for the decriminalization of sodomy in Belize on behalf of wealthy international interests.

Lord Peter Goldsmith, QC - Attorney for International Interested Parties
"We are representing three distinguished international organizations who are concerned about the rule of law, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association which has members from all over the world, the International Commission of Jurists which is one the most distinguished legal organizations, and the Human Dignity Trust which has patrons such as the former Chief Justice of South Africa and the former chief justice in Wales and many other distinguished patrons."

"How is is that they attached themselves to this case?"

Lord Peter Goldsmith, QC
"Because they believe this is an important case, important question - the rule of law, rights of individuals and we've therefore come to assist the court to reach a decision."

"What are the international implications of this?"

Lord Peter Goldsmith, QC
"In all cases, we trace questions like this. It will be looked at in different parts of the world, to study and to see what the experience in Belize is and to draw from the decision of what the judge will make."

"So in a sense this is a test case so to speak?"

Lord Peter Goldsmith, QC
"I don't know if it is a test case for Belize, but it's an important case and people will study as they've studied decisions in other part of the world with interest."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir, we also take note that you made mention that a lot of ink has be put into the issue of foreign agenda. Can you speak briefly on the commentry that you've seen."

Lord Peter Goldsmith, QC
"What I was trying to say was that I thought it was a very unfair suggestion to make that people who are foreigners are coming because we're here to help the court reach it's decision. Actually it's very ironic because the law, which is being attacked here, which they are trying to preserve - is not a Belizean law. It's a law that was brought by the British colonizers. It's a legacy of the imperial past. So it seems very ironic in those circumstances to treat it as something which Belize has to keep. Whether Belize Wants it is another issue."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir, can I take an opportunity to be direct here?"

Lord Peter Goldsmith, QC

Daniel Ortiz
"You, sir, are a distinguished Queen's Counsel and a former Attorney General - there is the perception that you have a Great Legal acumen and the ability to present your arguments before the court and as a result there is an appropriate proportional cost. It lends itself to the perception that the international parties are here to either support and/or finance Caleb Orozco and the UNIBAM. So, the conspiracy theorists in Belize have just made the further leap that there's a foreign agenda here."

Lord Peter Goldsmith, QC
"Let me make this clear because I'm glad you asked me this question. I am doing this case for free. I am not being paid anything for doing this case. We are here because we believe it is an important case and I'm a member of the Bar of Belize and very happy to have the opportunity to assist the learned Chief justice to reach a decision in this case; nothing to do with financing or anything of the sort. Quite the contrary, we're doing it for free."

Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay made representation on behalf of the Churches in the afternoon session today. His arguments lasted two and a half hours.

Channel 7

Posted By: Marty

Re: Finally, It Begins: Caleb Vs. GOB - 05/10/13 11:19 AM

Day 3 Concludes In Orozco vs Attorney General On Homosexual Issue

There were quite some things to talk about as the case of Caleb Orozco versus the Attorney General of Belize entered its third day at the Supreme Court of Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin. As we reported yesterday, attorney for the interested parties, namely the Commonwealth Lawyer’s Association, the International commission of Jurists and the Human Dignity Trust, Queen’s Counsel Lord Peter Goldsmith wrapped up his arguments yesterday evening. Today Goldsmith explained that all cases which pose questions like this will be looked at in other parts of the world so as to learn and to draw from the decisions made by the judge.  Goldsmith says it is unfair to say that they are here to impose a foreign agenda as has been alleged and he also maintained that he is doing the case pro bono.


"We are here to help the court reach its decision and it's very ironic because the law which is being attacked, the law which people are trying to preserve is not a Belizean law, it's a law that was brought by the British colonize, it's a legacy of the imperial past so it seems very ironic in those circumstances to treat it as something that Belize has to keep, if Belize wants to that's another matter.  I am doing this case for free; I am not being paid anything to do this.  We are here because we believe it is an important case.  I am a member of the Bar of Belize and am very happy to have the opportunity to assist the learned Chief Justice to reach a decision in this case.  It has nothing to do with financing or anything of the sort, quite the contrary; we are doing it for free."

Today the court session began with a presentation by Senior Crown Counsel Nigel Hawke on behalf of the Attorney General of Belize, but he wasn’t quite into his arguments as yet, when the court was granted recess due to last minute submissions as explained by Christopher Hamel-Smith the lead lawyer for Caleb Orozco.


"It was a highly technical point; Counsel for the State took the position that because there wasn't a specific reference to those provisions in the claim form that we weren't entitled to raise arguments that mentioned those sections.  The Chief Justice thought about it and came back this afternoon and gave his ruling which essentially said that he wanted to decide the case on the full constitution in accordance with what is substantively right for the country and therefore he was basically not upholding that objection and amending the claim form to add Section 16 so that he can do justice on the full constitution and not artificially confine his views to less than is important to the case."
Smith says there would have been no implications if the judge’s decision was different. In presenting his arguments on behalf of the Attorney General of Belize, Nigel Hawke asked the judge that the case be decided on the base of the Belize Constitution and by extension what is contained there-in.  He said that the Sexual Orientation is not held in the Belize constitution and Human Dignity is not implied in there as well.  He says there is no reason to modify section 53 if the right that Caleb Orozco is fighting for does not exist in the Constitution.  One other point he brought up is that this wasn’t a matter for the court. The same statement was echoed by Senior Counsel, Eamon Courtenay when he presented his arguments on behalf of the Church. He stipulated that section 53 does not imply that if you are a homosexual you are guilty of committing an act, he explained that evidence would have to be presented and further continued with his argument that this is not a matter for the court and it belongs in Belmopan.  Here is what Hamel-Smith had to say about the defense’s arguments today


"The Constitution of Belize says expressly that it is the supreme law of this country and that any other law to the extent that is inconsistent with the Constitution is void.  The only part of the country, the only person in the country that is allowed to decide whether it is contravening the constitution is the court; that is the job of the courts.  So, the judge has to answer the questions that doesn't mean that Parliament cannot do its job but the courts or the guardians of the constitution, they have to interpret the constitution and they have to apply the constitution and am sure they will do so, whichever party is right or wrong."

But amidst an interview by Louise Wade from Belize Action yesterday, and a press release from the Belize Council of Churches, both saying that they condemn violence against homosexuals, Caleb Orozco has been the victim of an attack to his personal property and was in fact excused for about half the morning session in court to go and deal with the problem, he told us more about what happened.


"Between three and four last night, my security arrangement were circling and they found some problems.  Later on, around 8:30 while preparing to come to court they found the right side of my car door stripped, the glass broken, the back part of my car opened and later on I found out through my neighbor and my mom that the Police had checked for a report that there were two masked guys who jumped my gate, got into my yard while I was sleeping.  I knew nothing of the men; I knew nothing of the police report until this morning.  I was asked to go in to make a formal report to the police; I did that this morning and this has happened on top of lot of Facebook threats with one person saying that this case could easily be dismissed, if I die."

Orozco says things like that have been accumulating over the past few weeks, even more so now that the case has begun and he calls on the churches to take their advertisements down if they are serious about not promoting violence


"What has happened here, while the Church put out a release saying they condemn any form of violence, they have insisted by omission and indifference to accept or support in silence, the attack ads that have been occurring in the media.  To put out misleading, false, misrepresentations of the facts of this case to the public is cultivating not only an atmosphere of fear for my community but cultivating an atmosphere of personal insecurity that I have experienced and have been experiencing for quite some time.  If they are serious about  condemning any acts of violence, I want them to take those ads down because it is not adding to any rational debate, it's not adding to any additional information that is responsible; it is only cultivating ignorance to a public and precisely to a minority who seems to prefer to drink Jim Jones kool-aid particularly than to look for rational discussion."

Orozco says he’s been working behind the scenes with security agencies to try to work out something for his protection after the case is over.  He did tell us also how his level of confidence about the case is now


"At this point, if we had kept the original Justice, I would have been certain that the probability of getting a favorable ruling would not have happened.  At this point, it's a tossup, I honestly cannot tell you either way but I can tell you I am cautiously optimistic that this process is a little fairer than the start of this case."

Tomorrow the case goes on to day four, where Courtenay will continue his submissions which will in turn be revised by Smith on behalf of the claimant. Smith says he believes that the judge will surely want some time to review the mountain of material being brought before him, before making a decision.


Posted By: Marty

Re: Finally, It Begins: Caleb Vs. GOB - 05/10/13 11:22 AM


Day Three of the Caleb Orozco v. The Attorney General of Belize trial challenging the constitutionality of the Section 53 anti-sodomy penal code started with chatter in the courtroom about the Claimant Caleb Orosco’s home being vandalized:

This came on top of new reports last night on Belize Channel 5 News that threats of violence against Caleb and the gay community members close to him had escalated. Lisa Shoman, Attorney for Caleb Orozco, appealed to all, especially the media:

“There has been a visible increase of threats and violence against Mister Orozco and against all homosexuals in Belize. There are threats for killing, burning, shooting; you name it. It has to stop. We are all Belizeans. We can agree to disagree without getting violent about it.”

Arguments on behalf of the Attorney General of Belize were made today by Nigel Hawke, Senior Crown Counsel. Objections were entered to the Claimant’s reliance on Sections 11, 12 and 16 of the Constitution, which govern freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, and the right to non-discrimination. (In the afternoon session the Judge would rule that these sections are admissible. ) Next up was the argument that that there were no fundamental rights upon which Claimant could rely in the Belize Constitution. Counsel for the Defense argued that sexual orientation was not a basis for claiming the rights afforded to citizens under the Constitution, and therefor the rights the Claimant sought to enforce rights were “somehow mythical.” And that:

“It is within our right as a sovereign nation to keep Section 53 on the books as long as we want. It is the people’s right through their elected officials to change the law,” said Hawke.

In live tweeting from the courtroom I saw that the Attorney General was pleading “for the the moral nature of Belize”. I couldn’t help but sound the ”activist judges” alert in my head when I saw the tweet that counsel for the Attorney General had said:

Court must not usurp authority granted to legislative and executive branches of government.#belize #unibam AsaDeMatteo 13:01

The District Attorney feels the Claimants issue is of a social nature and recommends taking the issue to the legislative bodies to get new, and undoubtedly soon to be labeled ‘special’, rights.

And in fact, in an interview on Belize’s “Open Your Eye” on Tuesday, Claeb Orosco’s counselors Shoman and Westmin James had disabused the public of the misconception that their client had not taken legislative steps toward the amendment of Section 53. To the contrary, Orozco had participated in broad-based national consultations which resulted in the clear recommendation for repeal of Section 53 by the Policy and Legislation Committee of the National AIDS Commission (NAC) back in 2009.

So just as I had commented above, Attorneys for the Claimant had to reiterate that their Claimant seeks no new rights, nor to make any changes to or in the Constitution, but simply “to enforce his fundamental freedoms and right to privacy, human dignity, and equal protection under the Constitution.”

Today’s arguments by the Attorney General amount to ‘take it to the legislature’, and from counsel for the churches to ‘homosexuality is a sin’.

Arguments in the case are scheduled to conclude tomorrow.

A few tweets of the proceedings provided by Asa DeMatteo in the courtroom are below. See for all of his tweets.


Posted By: Marty

Re: Finally, It Begins: Caleb Vs. GOB - 05/11/13 10:48 AM

Arguments Close In UNIBAM Case

After 3 years of anticipation, and 4 long days of legal back and forth, the Caleb Orozco challenge to Section 53 of the criminal code has finally been argued to completion, and tonight, it is in the hands of the Chief Justice to make a decision.

Eamon Courtney, the lead attorney for the Churches, finished his presentation this morning. His argument explained why the Orozco challenge should be struck out of court.

After a 5 hour presentation, Courtenay briefly explained that thrust of his argument: that Orozco could not prove that any of his constitutional rights were violated because he’s never been prosecuted, and will likely never be prosecuted for his sexual preference.

Eamon Courtenay - SC - Attorney for the Churches
"Once UNIBAM was struck out as a claimant then it left Mr. Orozco's affidavit with very little evidence about a personal prejudice that he was being affected by and in the absence of that - the cases are very clear that you cannot bring a claim under the constitution. We relied on cases and I heard Mr. Hamel-Smith in reply criticizing me for the submission for making it late but I think he will understand that that is the law. Whether I make it now or yesterday - that is the law. He has no standing in this claim. I don't want the impression to be given as I understand it has been given in some quarters of the media that the church is insensitive or intolerance to the rights of gay people, lesbians or transgender people. I submitted quite carefully and clearly to the court that in face one of the most tolerant entities in our democracy is in fact, the church.

We are understanding of Mr. Orozco's position and in fact - Mr. Orozco should be praised for having raised this issue. The point is that he has raised it in the wrong forum. The court is not an academic institution, it is not a place where you come and ask for advisory opinions for example the International Court of Justice. You have to suffer a right, you have to suffer a prejudice and when that happens to you then you come to court. All the cases that were relied on by my learned friends except the ones that come from Singapore - I distinguish that because they don't have an equivalent to our section 20. They said that in that case the mere existence of the provision on the law is enough - they don't have section 20. Our section 20 says - very carefully that you have to have a right that is being contravene, is likely to be contravene, or has been contravened in relation to you. So it is not an academic question and if Mr. Orozco cannot prove that the police has threatened him, that they have arrested him, that there's a likelihood that he's going to be prosecuted or arrested or somehow prejudiced by this law then he cannot have standing. The proper place for him to seek redress is in the National Assembly - seeking to get the legislators to change the law on the matter. I made the submission to the court this morning that all the evidence from Mr. Orozco, all the evidence - document after document shows representations to the National Assembly asking them and the government to change the law. We sited responses from the government saying that they are not prepared to do it and so what I told the court is that the claimants are upset about that and have come to the Chief Justice and asking him to lash and discipline the legislatures because they are not doing what Mr. Orozco wants. That has no place in our democracy - when it comes to law making and when it comes to defining what is a criminal offense in Belize - that is determined by the National Assembly and not by the Supreme Court." But as we showed you, there are members of the church who have the impression that if the 3 words that Orozco says are offensive to his rights are removed, it deflates Section 53 of the criminal code, and makes it ineffective against perpetrators of male on male rape, and child molestation.

Courtney told us that he can understand why that concern has arisen. According to him, it partly because the claimant’s case is unclear; it is not applying the strength it needs to qualify for a proper challenge in court.

Eamon Courtenay
"There case isn't clear. I pointed it out to the Chief Justice, in fact they have presented the court with four options. The one option they have not presented the court is striking down Section 53 completely so once that is off the table, the question is what type of sexual practices are constitutional and what are not? That is why they have to give the court four options to choose from. The point that we're making is once you move away from an absolute challenge to Section 53 and say to the court 'I am giving you a menu' and as an example I gave to the court - 'this is a very nice steak and how do you want it? Rare, medium rare, medium well or you want it well done?' They are giving four options to the chief justice asking him to choose how he likes his 'steak'. The constitution precludes that type of operation by a court. They should take those four options to the government, to the legislature and say 'we advocate for one or two or whichever' and have the legislature choose it."

And in relation to this issue, UNIBAM sent out a release yesterday in which it condemned all of abusive sexual behavior, including all forms of rape and child molestation.

According to the organization, Section 53 is not the answer to male on male rape, and that there needs to be legislative reform on the rape laws to make them gender-neutral.

In relation to the challenge in court, Chief Justice Benjamin has reserved judgment for a date to be later announced.

Channel 7

Posted By: Marty

Re: Finally, It Begins: Caleb Vs. GOB - 05/11/13 11:21 AM

UNIBAM says it wants same sex activity legalized

Caleb Orozco

But even as the case wraps up, there is still confusion in many quarters on what exactly the claimant wants done to section fifty-three which penalizes persons who engage in carnal knowledge against the order of nature with a ten year prison term. According to propaganda and ads from the churches and other groups, Orozco is asking for section fifty-three to be struck out completely, which means that there would be a vacuum left in terms of unnatural crimes including molestation of children. But in court, lead counsel for the claimant, Christopher Hamel-Smith, seemed to be asking for section fifty-three to be amended only to the extent that consensual sex between two adults of the same sex would not be illegal. News Five asked both Courtenay and Hamel-Smith for a clarification on that issue.

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for the Churches

Eamon Courtenay

“The reason why you are not clear about it is because their case isn’t clear. And I pointed it out to the Chief Justice. In fact, they have presented the court with four options. The one that they have not presented the court with is striking down section fifty-three completely. Once that is off the table, the question is what types of sexual practices are constitutional and what are not. And that is why they have to give the court four options to choose from. And the point that we are making is once you move away from the absolute challenge to section fifty-three and say to the court I am giving you a menu; and the example I gave to the court is that this is a very nice rib eye steak and I di give you how you want it: rare, you want it medium rare, you want it medium well or well done. They are giving four options to the Chief Justice asking him to choose how he likes his steak. The constitution precludes that type of constitution by a court. They should take those four options to the government, to the legislature, and say we advocate for one or two or whichever and have the legislature choose it. So I think their case is fundamentally flawed by contending that the court has an option; that the court can choose which steak it likes. That is not how our democracy works.”

Christopher Hamel-Smith

Christopher Hamel-Smith, Attorney for the Claimant

“I think we’ve made that very clear from the first day. What we are asking is very clear. We are saying that section fifty-three of the act is inconsistent with the constitution to the extent, but only to the extent that it applies to consenting sex between adults in private. And that we are not asking for anything further than that.  So we are simply saying that the constitution requires that any law inconsistent with the constitution be void to the extent of that inconsistency. So it only reaches to the question of consenting adult sex in private—no more, no less.”

Mike Rudon

“Will the Supreme Court be able to touch just that section? How would they go about doing that; just touch that section without affecting the rest of it?”

Christopher Hamel-Smith

“They do that by being the Supreme Court. So they can say what the law is. Is they simply declare as a matter of law in Belize that section fifty-three is void to the extent that it might otherwise have affected sex between adults consenting in private. Because they are the supreme court, they can tell you what the law does and doesn’t do.”

News Five tried to get comment from Deputy Solicitor General Nigel Hawke, who presented the case on behalf of the Attorney-General. He would not speak on the case, but did take the time to commend his team for their dedication and the work which went into a very spirited argument from the state. He maintained also that the crux of the argument is that the Supreme Court is not the proper forum for the matter to be addressed. And as we said earlier, a decision is expected by July.

Channel 5

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