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May 9, 2014

A one-on-one with gay activist, Maurice Tomlinson on the CCJ ruling

On Thursday, the Caribbean Court of Justice ruled favorably on behalf of LGBT activist Maurice Tomlinson, granting him special leave to challenge the immigration acts of Belize and Trinidad & Tobago.  The decision followed a suit which was filed in July of last year in which Tomlinson claims that the existing laws are prejudicial towards prohibited classes, including homosexuals.  Since familiarizing himself with the constitutions of both countries, Tomlinson has stayed away from visiting, stating that by returning to either state he would be complicit in upholding the law.  The decision, he says, may have a bearing on the current UNIBAM challenge, as the Supreme Court will be looking closely at what has been down by the final appellate institution.  This afternoon, News Five spoke at length with Tomlinson who says that he is satisfied with the ruling of the CCJ.

 

Isani Cayetano

“Kindly begin by sharing with us your thoughts on the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice on Thursday, with regards to granting you special leave to challenge the Immigration Acts of Belize and Trinidad & Tobago.”

 

Maurice Tomlinson, Gay Activist

“Well I’m very pleased that the court has seen that the existence of these laws creates a prejudice against myself and all other persons who are described as prohibited classes in the immigration laws of Belize and Trinidad.  Gays, disabled, persons who have infectious diseases, all of us are considered prohibited classes and that’s a very stigmatizing term.  So I’m glad the court has agreed that that law violates my right to dignity.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Briefly share with us when you became aware of these existing clauses within the immigration acts of Belize primarily.”

 

Maurice Tomlinson

Maurice Tomlinson

“When I had left Belize, I had visited once before and when I left I was asked to come back and do another training on human rights documentation and advocacy and at that point I decided to do some research into what laws Belize has, dealing with homosexuality.  I was surprised to see that Belize had a law which describes me and other groups of people as prohibited classes.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Now I understand that you have stayed away from visiting both countries in the wake of this particular discovery of yours, so to speak.”

 

Maurice Tomlinson

“Yes, I have made a decision not to visit Belize even though I have been invited to do work there on behalf of UNIBAM and my organization, AIDS Free World, requires that I travel around the region to do training in advocacy and human rights and also to talk about how we can address the impediments to an effective HIV response.  But I cannot do that in good conscience as a lawyer because to visit Belize and to visit Trinidad I would be breaching the law and I would also be complicit in maintaining the law because if I’m advocating against laws which criminalize people and force them underground and prevent them from accessing prevention treatment and care, I cannot be using my privilege to go to Belize and Trinidad just because I can, you know, possibly face persecution or prosecution.  It’s inconsistent with my principles and it’s inconsistent with my legal profession.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“As a lawyer, speaking about the UNIBAM Challenge, the existing challenge before the Supreme Court of Belize, do you feel as if though this particular decision by the CCJ in any way sets a legal precedence with regards to that existing claim?”

 

Maurice Tomlinson

“Well, Belize, as you know, has recognized the final jurisdiction of the CCJ as its ultimate court and therefore I think whatever comes out of the CCJ will be very persuasive on judges in Belize and I think that that fact that the court has said that an existing provision which determines or defines homosexuals in this way is prejudicial, is something that the courts in Belize will be paying attention to.  I mean I can’t prejudge the matter and I can’t presume to speak for the honorable justices but I certainly think that whatever the CCJ says, as your final court on this matter, will be taken on board by your judges.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Without compromising your arguments in the upcoming substantive matter, can you speak to us, having now received special leave to challenge the immigration act, what some of those arguments or salient points would be?”

 

Maurice Tomlinson

“Well the arguments will almost be what we’ve already argued in the application for special leave, namely: the existence of the law works a prejudice against me and all other persons who are similarly situated because it prevents us from entering the country without breaking the law and it also breaches our right to dignity under the Caribbean charter.  These laws have no place, the reality is these have no place in a modern society and most Belizeans will tell me that the laws are not being enforced anyway.  So the simple question is: why maintain them?”

 

Tomlinson has seven days, as of Thursday, to prepare for the second round of arguments which will focus on the substantive matter.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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1 Response for “A one-on-one with gay activist, Maurice Tomlinson on the CCJ ruling”

  1. Jethro says:

    Gays? Really? The Lord calls them homosexuals.This is despicable and nasty. Keep your nasty stuff to yourselves. We don’t need to know about your filth.

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