Belize Government Opens Door For Appeal Of Court Ruling That Legalized Gay Sex

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Guatemala’s President Alvaro Colom and B

Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow says his government will challenge a small aspect of the historic ruling.


BELMOPAN, Belize, Monday September 12, 2016
– After weeks of insisting it would not appeal a decision by the country’s chief justice that made sex between consenting homosexuals legal, the Belize government is challenging one aspect of it.

It wants the interpretation of the word “sex” in the Constitution to remain male/female instead of extending the definition to “sexual orientation”, as the ruling did. But that small challenge paves the way for the church and others who were unhappy with the ruling to launch a wider appeal.

The development comes a month after the August 10 ruling of Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin that Section 53 of the Criminal Code that criminalized intercourse between consenting adults of the same sex was unconstitutional.

That section states that “every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal . . . shall be liable to imprisonment for 10 years.” But Benjamin said the offending legislation should be amended, to include a clause stating that it “shall not apply to consensual sexual acts between adults.” His ruling came in a challenge brought by LGBT activist and Executive Director of United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) Caleb Orozco against the constitutionality of Section 53.

homosexuals can have sex chief justice caleb

LGBT activist and Executive Director of United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) Caleb Orozco (left) challenged the law and Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin (right) agreed with him that it is unconstitutional.

Despite earlier calls by the church – which had staged protests – for his government to appeal the ruling, Prime Minister Dean Barrow had insisted that his administration did not want to see the ruling overturned. But after meeting with church leaders last week, he announced that government is prepared to appeal the part of the Chief Justice’s decision that expands the definition of “sex” in the constitution to include “sexual orientation.”

“That position government came to after an extensive review of the judgement and the advice of the attorney general,” he said.

Barrow acknowledged that government’s narrow appeal allows all who are interested parties to make submissions across the board.

“The Roman Catholics, as an interested party, can now make submissions in the appeal and they can go beyond where government is prepared to go…Government does not want to see the decriminalization of Section 53 reversed, but we are happy that we have opened the door so that those that feel very strongly different from us can have a chance to argue their case and ventilate their position,” he said.

“We’ve looked at the law and the learning says quite clearly that even where government does not believe in an appeal, if the point in issue is one of fundamental importance about which the society is sharply divided, the public interest actually might require government to facilitate the ventilation of that view that’s different from government’s view.”

And while the church has welcomed the decision, Orozco said he was disappointed that Prime Minister Barrow had changed his position and was now giving an opportunity for others to challenge the historic decision that had been hailed as a momentous victory for the LGBT community. But he was also adamant that he is ready to continue fighting.

“When a person like me has been marginalized for over two decades and live in a state which does not acknowledge my concern, fighting is a normal part of the process. All I can say, as claimant, [is] I’m ready for round two and let the fight begin,” Orozco told Channel 7 News Belize.

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