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Jun 21, 2017

U.S. raises LGBT flag in Belmopan

Tonight, the rainbow flag flies on the U.S. Embassy compound in Belmopan in commemoration of the L.G.B.T.I. community in the U.S. It was hoisted this morning for the second time in two years. The gay community was invited to participate in the ceremony through which the U.S. government reinforces human rights and equality even as it encourages governments to remove laws that criminalize same sex conduct. News Five’s Isani Cayetano was in Belmopan.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The rainbow flag, a symbol of pride for the LGBTI community, represents many things, including a movement towards acceptance by the wider society.  In Belize, that multicolored banner is still very much controversial, as it signifies a bold departure from norms that have been established generations ago.  Today, Caleb Orozco is heralded as a champion of that effort.  His travails are well-documented, so are his experiences being a gay man in Belize City.

 

Caleb Orozco, Gay Rights Activist

Caleb Orozco

“The labels on me are changing gradually to, I guess, say the word, respectable?  On the street respect is the last thing I have.  But the point can be made and it can be made clearly, that is, what do we value as citizens?  And I can say for certain, family.”

 

That kinship is also represented by the rainbow flag, now a universal emblem for the minority groups which it represents.  At the U.S. Embassy, the standard is being hoisted as a gesture of solidarity with the population.

 

Adrienne Galanek

Adrienne Galanek, Charge D’Affairs, US Embassy

“This is our second consecutive year raising the flag.  Many of you were here last year and we’re proud to be able to show our continued support and commitment.  Likewise, we appreciate the support that all of you provide to the LGBTI community in Belize and throughout the world.  LGBTI Pride Month celebrates the impact that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex individuals, friends and communities have today and have had throughout history on a local, national and global scale.  LGBTI Pride Month is celebrated each year in June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village which served as a tipping point for the gay liberation movement in the United States.  The last Sunday in June was initially celebrated as Gay Pride Day, but in major cities in the United States the day soon grew to encompass a month-long series of events.  Today, celebrations include parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts and LGBTI pride events attract millions of participants around the world and events throughout the world.”

 

Beyond the characterization of the flag is the obligation that society has to safeguard its youths, despite their preferences and orientation.

Adrienne Galanek

“We all have a responsibility as community leaders, politicians, religious leaders, coworkers, friends, neighbors, and most importantly as families, to ensure acceptance and support particularly of our LGBTI youth.  And thank you to the LGBTI community here in Belize for all the advocacy that you do for inclusion and for support for youth as well.  The rainbow flag serves as a reminder to all of us that everyone, no matter what their creed, or race, or sexual orientation or identity deserves basic human rights and human dignity.  It symbolizes our commitment as citizens to show understanding and compassion to those who we may consider to be different from us.”

 

Over the years, Orozco, the Executive Director of United Belize Advocacy Movement, UNIBAM, has become the voice of the LGBT community.  His right of speech isn’t only an expression of his views, he also represents those who are silently suffering hatred and discrimination.

 

Caleb Orozco

“So when you hear me speak, I don’t speak for myself.  I speak for those people who you would never hear complain about the violence and discrimination they experience from their family.  When I speak about those who have no protection and if they are seriously ill they will have no support because we don’t exist in legislation and our dignity and our rights aren’t valued when we live our lives.  And so my work is not only to transform the quality of life of our LGBT citizens but it is also to inspire other people to understand marginalization as a citizen is not limited to LGBT persons.  It expands itself to women, it expands itself to young people and as a course of action we carry the burden collectively to transform our society for the better.”

 

The rainbow flag flies over the U.S. Embassy in Belmopan until the end of the month.

 

Isani Cayetano reporting for News Five.

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