The Supreme Court of Belize will decide on the future of the Central American country’s colonial era sodomy law early next year, with a hearing set to begin on May 7.
Prospects for the hearing did not look good at first when Justice Michelle Arana decided that LGBT rights group the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) could not challenge the constitutionality of the law as it was not a person in May of this year.
However she allowed UNIBAM president Caleb Orozco to challenge the law as an individual and has now allowed UNIBAM to participate as an interested party in the case as she had already allowed representatives of Christian churches in Belize to be interested parties along side the government of Belize.
The churches and government want to retain Section 53 of the country’s criminal code which outlaws homosexuality alongside bestiality as carnal intercourse ‘against the order of nature.’
Orozco told the Amandala newspaper that he was hopeful of a positive verdict in a case about ‘fundamental rights and freedom,’ and welcomed recent statements from US officials urging progress in the region on LGBT rights.
‘There is a layer of comfort from the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s support for our cause here in Belize,’ Orozco said.
However a spokesman for the churches, Pastor Scott Stirm, claimed that UNIBAM was trying to push a foreign agenda on Belize.
‘UNIBAM is trying to use the preamble of the constitution to push a lifestyle in Belize that is unacceptable,’ Stirm told Amandala.
‘They are trying to push this issue as a human rights issue. And there is an international, global agenda that is pushing homosexuality and abortion.
‘UNIBAM receives support from the U.S. in the name of human rights. But we will not allow them to legalize this lifestyle so that they have free course to go into the schools and teach our kids their lifestyle.’
UNIBAM has threatened to fight the case all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice if need be and hopes the case will have wider implications for the region.
‘Our friends in the Caribbean … are watching the case closely and the friends I am talking about are other LGBT activists who are looking not only at the process but the lessons learnt and the challenges in order to decide how they will approach their filing,’ Orozco told Channel 5 Belize in January.
‘We know for example that Jamaica did a similar filing of their case at the Inter-American Human Rights Court.’
Belize is one of a number of English speaking former British colonies in the region that still outlaw homosexuality.