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Feb 2, 1998

Gay cruise visits Belize City; protesters demonstrate at dock

Story Picture
The Old Testament tells us that the ancient city of Sodom was reduced to rubble when the lord could no longer tolerate the licentiously wicked ways of its sexually uninhibited inhabitants. Twenty four hours after the visit of some nine hundred so called sodomites, Belize City is still standing.

The M.S. Leeward dropped its anchor around ten Sunday morning about five miles out from Belize City. But even before the ship’s passengers could make it to land, already waiting for them, armed with placards in hand, and what they claimed was the Word of God, was a group of religious protesters, crying out to the tourists to either repent or turn back to sea.

Rodney Gordon, Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church

“I came out today to preach the Word of God to them and they heard it clearly. I came out to let, to serve notice to the government that the people of Belize still stand up for integrity and for righteousness. This is a righteous, I don’t know what you want to call it, protest so to speak that we are making to the Government. That we are totally displeased with the action they have taken to allow these people to come in.”

As the first tourists finally arrived on the ship’s hovercraft and made their way down the Radisson’s Pier, the police had already secured the area, and kept protesters and the press a good distance away.

Ewart Itza, Head of Traffic Branch

“It?s not a matter of block, it’s a matter of control just control.”

“But what are you afraid of that we might do as to why you’ll see the need to control the media?”

“We are not controlling the media, we are controlling everybody – the crowd.”

“So we have to stay back here, that is what you are saying?”

“There is a designated area for the press.”

The only reporter who had easy access was Alex Renton, a writer for the London Evening Standard newspaper. Renton had traveled down to Belize to cover the story and had smartly booked into the Radisson hotel.

Alex Renton, Writer, London Evening Standard

“As far as I can see, I have to remain even handed. There is an obvious control problem of a sort. I am used to in Britain to the media being treated badly by the authorities, so I can’t say I am surprised. I am lucky being able to walk around wherever I want to because I am staying at the Fort George Hotel anyway. So I can become a guest rather than a journalist whenever like superman changing whenever I need to.”

It was Renton who informed the Ship’s officials about the local press’s plight and in turn the ship’s crew, including some of the guests, ventured out to our designated area. According to Rich Campbell, the President of Atlantis Tour Operators, the company that booked the cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines, the trip was sold like any other tour package in the States and was also advertised in the gay press. Campbell says he does not believe that the protest will have a negative effect on Belize’s tourism.

Rich Campbell, President, Atlantis Travel Agency

“What?s happen is actually a positive response towards Belize. Not just, gay tourist is a tiny, tiny portion of the travel market, but it’s the travel market in general. The Travel Trade Press has come out and said, thank you Belize.”

“I know that because of this trip the Cruise line that we work with, the Norwegian Cruise line is actually considering this as a port stop and you know they are a very large company and a leader in the cruise industry, because of this they are considering this as a port stop.”

But while the cruise ship was given the go ahead to make port in Belize, the tour operator was specifically asked to have its passengers refrain from displaying any kind of public affections.

Kevin Gonzales, Director, Belize Tourist Board

“We just told them to be aware that it is a sensitive issue not only in Belize, but worldwide with respect to this kind of cruise and travel, you know gay and lesbian travel. It is something still you and some societies are sensitive to it and I think they should be aware of, you know if they get a reception like this, so to speak, it is part of the issue that are coming forward. I think as time goes by maybe the society will change.”

A society, that according to forty three year old Steven Silver, is very much out of touch with the world. Silver, who has practiced the gay lifestyle for most of his life, says he does not object to anybody’s lifestyle and can’t understand what the big fuss is about.

Steven Silver, Guest, M.S. Leeward

“This was a total surprise, but it?s very third world to me. This is extremely third world. When you go to the many countries around the world and I travel a lot around the world, I have never in my forty three years, never ever, ever and I have lived in Tokyo, I have lived in Seoul, Taipei. I have never, never seen anything so ignorant and it?s amazing that they are so close to the United States and they are so backwards.”

While the protest started out peacefully, things got a little bit out of control when the buses carrying the tourists were stoned as the vehicles passed through the crowd of demonstrators.

The police charged with the task of keeping back the crowd, also brought their dog to help control the noisy protesters. But this tactic did not prove particularly successful.

Fortunately no civilian was injured in the scuffle, but a policeman standing next to the dog handler was nipped by the canine. A young man as well was taken into custody after he threw an empty bottle at one of the buses. While there were nine hundred and ten passengers on board the M.S. Leeward, only seven hundred and twenty actually came on shore. Some of them then traveled to various Maya ruins, while others ventured out to the cayes to do some snorkeling and diving. After spending some six hours in Belize, the crew and their guests finally returned to the ship. By seven o’clock the visit of the gay cruise ship had entered the lore of Belizean History. Perhaps Lord Rhaburn could be persuaded to immortalize the day in song.

Representatives of Belize Travel Adventures, the company that handled local tours for the ship, report that once the visitors got away from the small band of protesters at the dock, they were treated with typical Belizean friendliness and thoroughly enjoyed their short stay in the Jewel. As far as can be determined no young boys were reported abused on Sunday — at least not any more than are normally abused by their own families — and no otherwise faithful husbands have left home to become drag queens in the fleshpots of America.

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