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Oct 30, 2018

Caleb Orozco Fights G.O.B.’s Partial Appeal on Section 53 Ruling

On Monday Justices of the Court of Appeal heard submissions regarding Government’s appeal to the 2016 Chief Justice ruling to read down section fifty-three from the Criminal Code of Belize. Before August tenth, 2016, section fifty-three criminalized consensual intercourse between two adults of the same sex.  In his ruling, the CJ Kenneth Benjamin declared section fifty-three unconstitutional as it breached the rights of consenting adults. G.O.B.’s partial appeal focuses on whether or not the Chief Justice stepped outside his jurisdiction to extend the meaning of sex to include sexual orientation. Solicitor General argued in court on Monday that besides being a matter for public discourse, the decision to extend the meaning of the word sex should be left to elected officials. But according to Attorney Lisa Shoman, parliamentarians have already decided on the matter when government’s decision to sign unto the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1996 was ratified by the Senate.

 

Lisa Shoman

Lisa Shoman, Attorney for Caleb Orozco

“Belize in this instance had ratified the ICCPR in 1996. In 1996 we made a decision to ratify this international treaty obligation and there is a long line of cases that say if you’ve ratified and upheld treaty obligations then those treaty obligations can and should, if there is any ambiguity in the meaning, be examined, can and should be included. So for instance if you notice this section in the constitution does not say gender. It says sex and sex in all of the findings of the courts, in all of the world has been held to also include the idea of sexual orientation. In other words, the broad meaning of sex, the full meaning of sex should also include sexual orientation. But that treaty obliges us to interpret sex as including sexual orientation. And even though we haven’t put it in our domestic legislation, we are not looking at a domestic issue. This isn’t about a will, it isn’t about adoption. What it is looking at is a constitutional issue i.e. should persons be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. The law is very clear, the cases are clear because you are unclear about the meaning of something you have to give it the widest possible meaning and the widest possible meaning that is in conformity with the treaty obligation that you sign. The parliament in Belize has ratified this because treaties go to the Senate so this was ratified.”

 

The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision to a later date. Attorneys Shoman and Westmin James represented Caleb Orozco while Queen’s Counsel Tim Ottey represented the Human Dignity Trust, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and the International Commission of Jurists as interested parties. The Attorney General’s office was represented by Solicitor General Nigel Hawke.

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