Belize court overturns sodomy law

BARBADOS TODAY:- While the local gay and lesbian community is jumping for joy at a ruling today by the Belize Supreme Court which outlawed the age-old ban on homosexuality, some church leaders here and a member of the Freundel Stuart administration are not pleased.

The Belize Supreme Court overturned the country’s sodomy law, with Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin ruling that Section 53 of the Criminal Code which criminalized intercourse between consenting adults of the same sex contravened the right granted by the Belize Constitution.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) activist Caleb Orozco and his United Belize Action Movement (UNIBAM) had challenged the law in 2010, claiming it contravened the country’s constitution of no interference with a person’s dignity and personal privacy, as well as equality and equal treatment of all persons before the law.

The written judgment was not immediately available, but the Chief Justice said the Court had an obligation to amend the law to bring it in conformity with the Constitution. Therefore, he ordered an amendment specifying that the section did not apply to consenting sexual acts between adults of the same gender.

A Barbados Government Minister, who did not want to be identified at this stage, expressed the fear that the courts may force the administration here to legalize homosexuality, “because nobody seem to have the courage to amend the [existing buggery] law”.  The minister said it was just a matter of time before the Barbados Supreme Court was asked to rule on this controversial issue.

The minister’s fears were the wishes of human rights activist and co-founder of the Barbados Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination [B-GLAD] Donnya Piggott.

Describing today’s ruling as “a wonderful thing”, Piggott said it was just a matter of time before the Supreme Court in Barbados would likely take a similar decision.

“It is certainly a wonderful thing. We were kind of waiting until a Caribbean island takes precedence and do something like this and we are really hoping the rest of the Caribbean will follow suit,” Piggott told Barbados TODAY.

She was excited that the claimant Caleb Orozco – someone very close to her and B-GLAD – had been victorious.

“Quite often we see it [legalizing homosexuality] in the larger western countries, but to have it here at home in the Caribbean is just a wonderful and amazing feeling. The [sodomy] law is just there, it is not being enforced . . . it is just taking up space and really sending a bad message when it comes to Barbados and the views of Barbadians,” she added.

“There are a whole host of implications when it comes to the buggery law . . . condoms in prison, you having better access in that regard, you have better access in the fight against HIV/AIDS which affects the LGBT community specifically. So this law being struck down is more than meets the eye. It really opens the door for people to be themselves . . . it says that you can live and your love is not illegal.”

Another leader in the LGBT community Darcy Dear also said it was only a matter of time before Barbados went the way of Belize because this country had the same human beings. “Love is still love . . . and love will eventually overcome all the bigotry that Barbados has. I applaud the government of Belize and I hope and pray that one day I can say the same about the Barbados Government,” Dear said.

However, outspoken church leader Senator the Rev David Durant said he was disappointed at the Belize Supreme Court ruling. He, too, feared it would not be long before same sex couples here were given similar rights.

“Once it starts in one of the Caribbean islands or one that is so close to us . . . then it can seep down in this part of the Caribbean, and that is very disappointing because we would want to maintain a standard of righteousness and help to guide people in the correct manner,” Durant said.

He said the same sex marriages which the LBGT community wanted to “force” on Barbados would now have more legal ground with which to work.

“It can spell a lot of trouble for Barbados, our families, for the church within this part of the Western Hemisphere, and that is a disappointing result from Belize, really disappointing,” the senior pastor at Restoration Ministries lamented.

District Superintendent of the Nazarene Churches in Barbados Dr Orlando Seale said the ruling had serious implications for Barbados. “The powers that be would continue to push and continue to press and it is obvious that the gay lobby has a lot of influential people in the right circles, it would appear,” Seale complained.

He said if the courts here were to make a similar decision the country and church would have to deal with it. “The truth is, sodomy, homosexuality, seem entrenched in many of our societies despite the law.  The law is just on the books, but they are not applied. No one gets arrested for buggery . . . not consenting adults, unless you rape a minor or so. But it’s on the law books, but it’s not implemented.”

The District Superintendent contended that while not expressing its support for homosexuality, Government seemed to agree with it.

“They may not have the courage to remove it from off the books. My immediate impression is that this is something that is going to come and it is for the church to know what it believes and continue to advocate what we believe from a biblical perspective,” he pointed out, adding that the church could not force people to follow the biblical dictum or rules.