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Aug 30, 2012

Same sex spouse definition in Banking Legislation?

The senate met on Tuesday in Belmopan; a number of bills were passed, but there is one that having gone through the House and debate; landed on the Senate and is stirring controversy. It is the Domestic Banks and Financial Institutions Act 2012 which contains a definition of spouse and which is being interpreted as a shift from the traditional husband and wife to same sex relationships. The Bill was passed in this manner: six government senators voted in favor, the opposition, churches and the private sector against while the unions abstained. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow

“Mr. Speaker, I move the second reading of a bill for an act to make new and improved provisions to govern domestic banks and financial institutions to strengthen the supervisory powers of the Central Bank and to enhance its regulatory independence to address the deficiencies and vulnerabilities in the domestic banking sector.”


The introduction of legislature to bolster Central Bank’s autonomy in regulating the financial sector has created a stir among members of the clergy.  Superficially, the arguments presented appear to be unrelated; however, the nexus between the two issues is the legal definition of the term spouse.  While the Council of Churches has partnered with government in a claim brought by the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), which seeks to have repealed Section Fifty-three of the criminal code, it strongly objects to the description of the word “spouse” in the context of the proposed law.


Noel Leslie

Father Noel Leslie, Senator Representing the Churches

“The churches would see a spouse as two persons who are married according to the way the church would approach marriage, in the sense that husband and wife, man and woman.  And so any relationship contrary to that would not be in accordance with how the church would see a spouse [which] is a man-woman relationship.”


The Domestic Banks and Financial Institutions Act 2012 was presented before the House of Representatives for a second reading during a special sitting last Thursday and was elevated to the Senate earlier this week for a vote on its passage.  While the bill was subsequently ratified, the meaning of spouse, as it pertains to this particular motion, has given the churches the impression that it has expanded to include same sex relationships.


An excerpt from the language used to define spouse, reads, “an individual person, a wife, husband, or other individual with whom the first-named natural person is engaged in an ongoing conjugal relationship, whether common-law union as defined by section 148 (D) of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, or not and whether or not the two persons are living together.”


The choice of words, according to the Council of Churches, signifies that government may be shifting its position in the legal challenge initiated by UNIBAM which aims to decriminalize carnal intercourse among same sex couples.  Caleb Orosco, UNIBAM’s front man, says the church is simply using fear to leverage its opinion.


Caleb Orosco

Caleb Orosco, Executive Director, UNIBAM

“Any extras you hear would be the result of fear mongering and pure propaganda which I believe is the natural role that the opposition must play in spreading their convincing word.  In regards to the definition of the word spouse, within the banking bill, it really doesn’t change anything in regards to the main things which the Christian rights [group] is worried about and that is the marriage act.  All it does is it gives some latitude in terms of the responses the financial institutions have in terms of dealing with gay people, lesbian people, who save, who borrow, who have income just like everybody else.”


Despite the fact that Senator Leslie supports government’s lobby for the empowerment of Central Bank, he voted against the bill because of his fundamental belief that there are discrepancies in the language.


Father Noel Leslie

“We do need to have controls.  There has to be regulations but at the same time you can’t let one paragraph go by just like that. There is a sense of a need for consistency and I think that is why I chose to vote no on that at that particular time.”


Attorney Dickie Bradley, on the other hand, argues that the definition of the term doesn’t do much to support the argument on either side of the legal divide.


Richard ‘Dickie’ Bradley

Richard ‘Dickie’ Bradley, Attorney at law

“This does not, in any way, advance the case for one side or the other in the UNIBAM challenge.  The UNIBAM challenge, as I understand it, is asking the Supreme Court of this country to remove a section of the criminal code which makes it an offense, a criminal offense with very heavy penalties, for persons to engage in anal sex, whether they do so man to man or man to woman.  That is a criminal offense presently in this country.  This will not help any of those from one side or the other.  I don’t think, although it is weak draftsmanship, it is confusing and it certainly is giving a new definition to the word spouse.  Under this particular use of the term spouse in the Domestic Bank and Financial Institutions Act, spouse no longer means only a husband or a wife, or a party in a marriage situation.  Spouse is saying common-law union, it is saying common-law union whether they live together or not.”


Those arguments having been put forward, only time will tell whether the controversy over the use of the word spouse, in the context of the UNIBAM challenge, is much ado about nothing. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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7 Responses for “Same sex spouse definition in Banking Legislation?”

  1. BMNJ says:

    Now we’re seeing the council of churches creeping out from hidings. As I have said many times before, when it comes to publicly speaking up and demonstrating against violent crimes and child molesters, they were never around. But somehow whenever homosexuality or gay issue is involved they would be the first in line to give their ’2 cents’.

  2. Uncle Benji says:

    Why is the church meddling in this matter? Practice what you preach. The biggest practioners of anal sex world wide are…………………… church clergy

    In 2010, the Catholic Church declared bankruptcy in places like Boston, Chicago. Los Angeles, Guatemala and Vietnam. Why? Lawsuits brought on by victims of anal sex performed on them by church priests under the guise of saving their souls.

    God, hear my prayer, and let me go to hell.

  3. brightman says:

    Institutionalized religions aim to take us back to the dark ages where the theocracy ruled (and still do to a great extent) by using fear tactics and selectively using scripture to subordinate believers. The reason why Christians call ourselves believers is because we opt to believe in religious doctrine through faith, not scientific fact. The churches will continue to lose followers an do greater damage than social good if they insist on bible-beating archaic beliefs and insist on refusing to respect the beliefs of others. When will Belizeans stop being so gullible–the churches, especially the Catholics whose track record is riddled with violence and corruption, should not be the sole authority on morality; we need rational intellectuals paving the way for progress, not religious fanatics/extremists.

  4. Ixchel Pop says:

    It is as you said, “much ado about nothing” . The church is being reactionary…I wander what the clergy calls the relationship (sexual) between priests and alter boys…..perhaps their is special language for that also.

  5. ceo says:

    More children get abused sexually in hetarosexual families and by religeous leaders than by homosexuals. There are facts and figures out there to support this fact. As a matter of fact just read the news in Belize and else where.

    How about those men that engage in the same act with their wife? Think!

    There is enough space on this earth for us all to live together in peace! Let us work on nreducing crime and building our country we would all be much better off if this could be accomplish!

  6. Concern Citizen says:

    These are the smartes coments I’ve ever seen on any coments before here on News5.

    Keep it up guys, dialog is the solution I wish we would all talk instead of shooting oneanother.

  7. maybank bank says:


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