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Sep 17, 2020

Chair of the NAC Reacts to Withdrawal of Equal Opportunities Bill

The controversial Equal Opportunities Bill was not tabled in the House of Representatives on Wednesday as planned. That decision was reportedly taken to avoid any political upheaval from churchgoers, particularly the National Evangelical Association of Belize, who were already making their discontent known. According to Prime Minister Dean Barrow, Cabinet felt that the bill is overdue and was prepared to support it in its entirety but a message from Bishop Philip Wright of the Belize Council of Churches influenced Cabinet’s decision, letting them know that the Council of Churches could not support the bill as it now stands. The E.O.B. protects nineteen different groups of people against twenty-one forms of but the bill has become controversial due to the LGBT factor and the churches feel that the LGBT community is being given special privileges. Chair of the National Aids Commission says Laura Tucker Longsworth says that could not be further from the truth. She says that the bill protects the rights of the minority and seeks to put a stop to the ongoing discrimination that marginalized groups face every single day. The Commission along with the Ministry of Human Development and Special Envoy for Women and Children are the creators of the bill. Today, we asked Longsworth if she was disappointed with Cabinet’s decision. 


Laura Tucker-Longsworth

Laura Tucker-Longsworth, Chair, National Aids Commission

“It is not unexpected because of the times we are in. We are in an election period and we have had opposition to the bill be for it ever began and that opposition will always be there. My disappointment comes not really from that aspect but from the aspect that the opposers managed to reach the level of the Council of Churches to influence Cabinet to really hold back the bill and I will tell you why they did that. It was very smart actually. They know that once that bill comes to the house and goes to the House committee with responsibility for these types of bill then consultations open up again and that would have given other stakeholders an opportunity to present their perspectives on the bill.  And so that is what they did and we happen to know because we have been paying attention and people have informed us. They informed us about their strategies. We know what they did. I don’t really care what they did. All I know right now is that loud voice and that public campaign to kill the bill is a s strategy, one that has to be seen as a strategy by the wider citizenry of Belize. And it is obvious. It is clear what their objectives are.  You have to put things in perspective. We understand the climate we are in and perhaps even an introduction of the bill at this time was maybe not a good thing because it is a political time now.”


Hipolito Novelo

“So you are saying that at the moment the government can’t afford a political blowback?”


Laura Tucker-Longsworth

“I don’t think they can’t and look, you never see civil disobedience when our mothers are losing their children. You never see them out there speaking about constitutions and rights. You don’t see them building houses, caring for everybody but you see them demonstrating because of an equal opportunities bill.   The issue for the evangelicals has to be and they told us what the problem is. There is one single problem. In the consultations in January we were told. It was recorded. We have the recording. They recorded it, brought their recording in our consultations in Belmopan which were wonderful at the end of the day. Because they said, they said it to me ‘if you remove anything that has to do with gender, anything that has to do with sexual orientation, anything that has to do with LGBT. If you remove those sections we will endorse the bill’. There is nothing more you can say to that. That is their fight. Our fight is to ensure that this bill addresses the human rights of the general populations of Belize.”

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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