GOB and churches proceed with appeal of section 53

Friday, September 30th, 2016

After Chief Justice Benjamin Kenneth issued his judgement on August 10th, striking down section 53 of the Criminal Code that outlawed sodomy for decades, the Government of Belize (GOB) decided not to appeal the decision. However, after several meetings with members of the Belize Council of Churches (BCC), the Government has now decided to partially appeal the amended criminal code, which the churches have appealed in its entirety.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

The outcome of the last meeting, held on Friday, September 9th, will now see the Attorney General filing an appeal in the days ahead. GOB’s case will be heard by the superior court individually while allowing all interested parties to appeal Section 53 in its entirety. The part of the ruling that the Government is appealing, according to Prime Minister Dean Barrow, is the piece which deals solely with sex and sexual orientation. “Government will appeal the aspect of the Chief Justice’s decision which extends of expands the definition of sex in the Constitution to include sexual orientation,” said Barrow. “That is the context of the constitutional protection to non-discrimination, which is the position government came to after an extensive review of the judgement and the advice of the Attorney General.”
After making the decision to partially appeal, Barrow informed the BCC. “Government’s position is and remains that we do not have any faith in any challenge to the striking down of Section 53 as being unconstitutional,” said Barrow. “We simply cannot support the criminalization of sexual acts between consenting adults and we are positive that, that is what Section 53 did.” At the end of the meeting, Barrow said that all the churches accepted GOB’s decision to appeal on the limited basis.
A few days after, on Friday, September 16th, exactly 21 days after the ruling was issued, the National Evangelical Association of Belize (NEAB) filed court papers as an interested party appealing the ruling. The NEAB was not the only entity to have filed, besides the Government, the Roman Catholic Church also filed appeal papers challenging certain aspects of Chief Justice Benjamin’s ruling.
The attorney representing the NEAB, Dickie Bradley explained that the filing of that document is an application by NEAB President Pastor Lance Lewis and Pastor Scott Stirm on behalf of the churches that are part of the Evangelical Association. “They are seeking permission to join in the appeal in relation to the now famous or infamous Section 53 ruling today,” said Bradley. “This is because the National Association of Evangelical Churches was not an interested party, not listed.” According to Bradley they have to seek permission from the courts to be allowed to go and argue their position in relation to the matter. Bradley also believes that the case will eventually end up at the Caribbean Court of Justice.
Pastor Lewis laid out the rationale behind the church’s stand against the ruling which legitimizes sodomy. “Sodomy between interested parties or consenting adults is opening the door for some of those adults to go further down the line to younger people, to get the society feeling like sodomy is okay now. It’s free day, it’s an open day, and this is opening that door for more to come,” he said. “Gay rights is not a human rights.”
Pastor Stirm chimed in saying that he thinks that all the issues are in violation of the declaration of human rights. “They want to change the whole thing into a re-interpretation of special human rights, that’s what we are calling it, special human rights,” he said. “We find it to be inaccurate and inappropriate and actually in violation of the universal declaration of human rights.”
By way of his ruling, Chief Justice Benjamin, has legalized homosexuality in Belize and given them the freedom of expression. In the meantime, until the appeal applications are processed, the Chief Justice’s ruling on Section 53 stands firmly despite the discontent of the BCC.

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