Opening arguments in Belize anti-sodomy law hearing urge court to uphold constitution

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The Supreme Court in Belize today began its hearing on whether or not to strike down a law criminalising gay sex, with testimony from an attorney who urged the court to uphold the country’s constitution, and the fundamental rights it represents for all citizens.

Under the Central American country’s code, gay citizens currently face a penalty of up to ten years’ imprisonment.

Section 53 states: “Every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal shall be liable to imprisonment for ten years.”

The United Belize Advocacy Movement, UNIBAM, is part of a constitutional challenge to overturn the ban on same-sex sexual activity, in the case of Caleb Orozco v the Attorney General of Belize.

Chris Hamel-Smith, the lead counsel for claimant Mr Orozco, urged the court to look carefully at the constitution, citing the right to privacy, home and family life, and the recognition of human dignity of every individual.

The Trinidad and Tobego attorney argued that Section 53 discriminates against sexual minorities, and urged the court to find Section 53 inconsistent with the constitution.

Ultimately, the Constitution requires “respect for individual conscience, respect for diversity of ways of being, respect for diversity of world-views and diversity of views,” said Hamel-Smith.

“Be not afraid. We do not come here to advocate a world view that disrespects or forces or imposes anything on…[your] community,” Hamel-Smith said in addressing arguments of the supremacy of God.

He added: “this case is about…the nature of the open, democratic and pluralistic society contemplated by the Belize Constitution.”

The court was full to capacity on Tuesday, with attorneys representing Orozco, the Attorney General, and other interested parties, and press.

The court hearing is set to last from 7 – 10 May. Advocates of the measure will be using the hashtag #UNIBAM to track its progress.