By Jomo Sanga Thomas*

(‘Plain Talk’, Jan. 03, 2020)

In a major victory for human rights, the Court of Appeal of Belize confirms that non-discrimination based on sexual orientation is protected by Belizean Constitution. On Dec. 30, The Court of Appeal delivered a judgment denying the Belize Government’s appeal of a 2016 ruling decriminalising adult consensual same-sex relations.

The three-judge panel reaffirmed the decision of the Chief Justice in 2016 that Section 53 of the Belize Criminal Code — which criminalised “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and disproportionately discriminated against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Belize — contravened the constitutional rights to dignity, equality before the law, privacy, freedom of expression and non-discrimination on the grounds of sex, and was therefore void.

The Belizean law is like sections 146 and 148 which have been challenged in our courts by Sean Macleish and Javin “Lucky” Johnson, two homosexual men. That case is on track for trial sometime during the second half of 2020.

Justice Samuel Lungole-Awich, writing for the Court of Appeal, ruled that the Constitutional prohibition on sex discrimination includes sexual orientation discrimination, and that this “gives the word sex in ss. 3 and 16 of the Constitution a purposive and generous meaning for protecting human rights. Accordingly, we hold that s. 53 of the Criminal Code is a law which discriminates on the basis of sex … and is void to that extent.” The court further found that sexual expression is part of the Constitutional right to freedom of expression.

In applauding the decision, Téa Braun, director of the Human Dignity Trust (HDT), which made key submissions before the court, said the “decision from the Court of Appeal is part of a growing international trend recognising that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is fundamentally rooted in gender stereotyping. The court rightly applied international human rights law to its interpretation of the Constitution.

“We hope the government will accept the Court’s decision and focus its full attention now on eradicating discrimination against all marginalised groups in Belize.”

Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.(iWN file photo)

In August 2016, Kenneth Benjamin, the Chief Justice of Belize, ruled that Section 53 of the Criminal Code was unconstitutional, and ordered that it no longer apply to consensual sexual acts between adults in private.

The Belizean Government, which is led by Prime Minister Dean Barrow, accepted the Court’s overall ruling of decriminalisation. However, in an apparent bow to the pressure of church groups, the government caused its attorney general to appeal against the findings on freedom of expression and non-discrimination.

The Roman Catholic church, which argued for and was allowed interested party status in the litigation, filed an appeal against the entire 2016 ruling, but withdrew its appeal in March 2018, a few months before the Court of Appeal heard the case.

Caleb Orozco, the respondent in the case, opposed both grounds of the appeal on the basis that they were academic in nature and would have no effect in practice, and that they were in any event of no merit. The Human Dignity Trust, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and the International Commission of Jurists jointly intervened in support of Orozco before both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal and made extensive successful legal submissions on the correct interpretation of sex discrimination and freedom of expression.

The October 2018 hearing at the Court of Appeal involved consideration of a range of decisions from the United Nations, the Caribbean Court of Justice, the Indian Supreme Court, and the appellate courts in the U.S., all of which support the view that the prohibition on sex discrimination encapsulates sexual orientation discrimination.

“This ruling shows the strength of strategic approaches to communication and community mobilisation used across the Caribbean. We are proud that Belize is raising the bar of what is possible in advancing LGBT rights across the region,” Orozco said.

Orozco is correct. People must overcome dogma, stigma and fear. We must challenge and interrogate everything. No one or no institution gets a free ride regardless status.

The Belizean Court of Appeal’s decision is critically important because it comes on the heals of similar decisions by the Trinidadian High Court dealing with the criminalization of same sex intercourse and a decision by the Caribbean Court Justice (CCJ) out of Guyana which was labelled the Cross-Dressing case.

To date, three courts have addressed the matter. All have persuasively ruled, citing a treasure trove of international human rights law in finding that the prohibitions in the criminal code of the respective countries violate constitutionally protected fundamental rights to privacy, liberty, freedom of expression and discrimination.

Apart from St Vincent, there are challenges to these restrictive sexual provisions in Barbados, Dominica, Grenada and Jamaica. Here, a coalition of churches have received interested party status and is gearing up to support the government’s defense of section 146 and 148 of the nation’s criminal code. The code prohibits sexual relations between same sex couples. Violations of the code could land those convicted to up to 10 years in jail.

Both the Government and the coalition of churches are preparing to argue that the code prohibitions are reasonably construed to advance health and safety concerns of the nation. There is also a moral dimension to the argument of those opposed to the challenge which alleges that the ban against consensual sex between persons of the same sex constitutes a violation of their fundamentally protected constitutional rights.

Based on the rulings in the decided cases in our region, the government and the churches have a long and difficult road to hoe. It is virtually impossible for them to convince a court that these prohibitions are reasonably justified and necessary for the proper functioning and protection of a democratic society.

*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to news.iwitness@gmail.com.

20 replies on “Court says LGBT people have rights”

  1. Gersham Alexander says:

    The church needs to use the only weapon that is available to them, that of prayer. Let us join together and pray and fast. No man, nor lawyer nor judges could go up against God. May the fire of the Holy Ghost consume all who fail to repent. Fire. Fire

  2. There are certain rights that all people should have,including Gays, including Republicans, including Women, including Donald Trump ,even including Iranian Generals, (that have never killed, or ordered the killing of any innocent people). It is when people believe they are “exceptional” , as Obama says, and believes, that we have all the hate, death and mistreatment that exists in the world today.
    When “(so called) Christians think they have the right to say who is better and who is inferior, is when hate gets hold in Western Society. There are other ways to feel superior and protect thier ideology within thier own jurisdiction, without taking rights away.

  3. These days we are faced with the ideas of Human Rights and Human Wrongs and in this instance in what is popularly known as “GAY RIGHTS”, it would appear that our own politicians here in SVG are abrogating their responsibilities to us as elected officials. .

    They are so doing by opting out of the process of “decision making” and leaving the decision to regulate our society, by passing this vexed matter to judges. Judges who are after all, unelected individuals. But how can we understand our present predicament in this recent demand by many for what were once thought to be non-existent rights. Worst, unlawful altogether!

    In order to get a fixing on these things, we may start with the Bible doctrine of “The Fall of Man,” the understanding of which is the door to our reality. For the Scriptures exclusively explain our human condition, the presence of “suffering and of sin” in this world.

    In a timely address Dr Masters in the UK sets out for us the matter as seen from another perspective to that of JOMO.

    https://www.metropolitantabernacle.org/Sermons-on-Romans/The-Fall-of-Man

    Moreover, Judges who though unelected, and who are not at all accountable to an electorate like most politicians, are daily more and more encroaching, it would appear, into what were once the domain of politicians only, and who for their part, are after all, ought to be fully accountable to those who elect them into office to watch over the society.

    Indeed, since most societies operate on the principle of “majority rule”, a much, much more equitable position to a country’s vexed opinions on such vexed matters as GAY RIGHTS ought to be reach through political decisions rather than through judicial ones by Judges.

  4. Law in confirming conformity! Here I present another timely address on our vexed matter that our campaigning Lawyer JOMO may find truly interesting, as the same is presented by Jonathan Sumption of the UK.

    Entitled “Law’s Expanding Empire” by Jonathan Sumption: Jonathan Sumption argues that the law is taking over the space once occupied by politics. Lord Sumption was until recently a justice of the UK’s Supreme Court, as well as being a distinguished historian. I ask, what price will we in SVG as a society, will pay for the new rights that are being demanded by this group, the LBGT?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqTiL6k4QEQ

    Recorded at Middle Temple in London, England in front of an audience, Jonathan Sumption argues that, until the 19th century, law only dealt with a very narrow range of human problems. But that has changed radically. And he says that the growth of the law, driven by a demand for greater security and less risk, means we have less liberty.

  5. Fundamental to the matter before us as a presumed Christian society are these questions: What are the role of Judges in a democracy? Who ought to decide what is necessary in a democratic society? And are moral and political opinions to be decided by Judges as opposed to politicians?

    One notes what JOMO has to say about the Legal precedent in view and what he wishes our court to follow, but it is noteworthy for him to remember that “Judges exist to apply the Law, it is the business of citizens and their representative to decide what the law ought to be”. In the circumstance what would the body of Vincentians say on this matter?

    In our day, homosexuality and same sex laws are becoming dictates by Judges and laws are equally being made through non-consensual legislation and mission creep by unelected Judges. In considering “Human Rights & Wrongs” and the principle of personal autonomy, as assumed by some Judges, I here again note the views of the learned Jonathan Sumption.

    In another of his lecture here, Jonathan Sumption argues that judges – especially those of the European Court of Human Rights – have usurped power by expanding the interpretation of human rights law.

    Lord Sumption argues that concepts of human rights have a long history in the common law. But by contrast, the European Convention on Human Rights has become a “dynamic treaty”, taking on new interpretations and powers.

    Article 8 – the right to private and family life – is the most striking example. He thus ask; should these decisions be made by judges or parliament?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qG_8XkkPmNw

    The majority inhabitants in SVG are stated to be Christians, as such, decision on homosexuality and same sex laws ought to be ours, made through our Parliament and not be left to unelected judges. Further to the majority of Vincentians, Homosexuality is thoroughly against the Moral Law of God and ought to be remained illegal and unlawful.

  6. Christians believe they are superior to all others. A question: If for some reason a man is caught by the police bulling a woman, would that be a crime? (or a pair of women doing oral sex on each other?)(in SVG) I’m a simple man so please enlighten me. Gays are everywhere, some are men others are women. They are in Parliament and even in Churches. They could be your neighbor. Who am I? to dictate to these people how they should live their private lives. People have the right to practice whatever religion they want to. Whatever that is.

  7. Jomo does mrs Jomo approve of what you stand for? Are you christian? Do you simply accept any case for
    the money? Do you believe you can win this case? Because when you pretending to know everything better than everyone else. Then you have to stand behind your action. Just like the christian church in SVG. Don’t bawl when it blow up in your face.

  8. If the court sanction Bullerism , will non Buller pelt stones at the Bullers? Would it be called a Buller war. Who would be responsible for the collateral damages? Will the churches beheld responsible?

  9. Vincy in New York says:

    Mr. Thomas, you will score a victory in this case but u do not have to rub it in ppl face. I wrote on this very medium that the law and the winds of change are on your side. Do not turn this into a charade.

    Intellect can be a catalyst for change but it can also be a vexatious omen. Dont be too bright for your own good.

    Do you notice that the other so called “bright people” in svg are biting their tongues on this subject? Do u know why?

    Please be calm and let history take its course. You solidly know that any legal jurisprudence in the world will come down on your side so dont go about unnecessarily teasing ppl because at the end of the day your legacy will come into question.

    Just try the case and let tempered spirits prevail.

    It is not what you do but how you do it.

  10. John 3:16 states that “God so love the world…” This clearly shows that God loves everyone in the world as individuals. This includes loving homosexuals as individuals. Does this mean that God is weak in the way he condemns homosexuality? Absolutely not! For God hates the PRACTICE of homosexuality. At Romans 1: 26, 27, we read:
    “God gave them over to disgraceful sexual passion, for their females changed the natural use of themselves into one contrary to nature;  likewise also the males left the natural use of the female and became violently inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males, working what is obscene and receiving in themselves the full penalty, which was due for their error.” (New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures) So the Most High God Jehovah (Psalm 83: 18) strongly condemns homosexuality.
    Hence, nothing is wrong in loving a homosexual as a person, whether a man with man, or woman with woman (lesbians) . God loves them as human beings. God’s Son said, as recorded at Matthew 5: 44, that we should even love our enemies. Therefore, we love homosexuals as persons, like God and his Son, Jesus do. But we hate their practice of homosexuality. Reject homosexuality!

  11. Jomo is finished politically ad Ralph said, he is also finished morally in the eyes of a lot of Vincentiam who still have a moral campus on the issue of gay rights. Where are you H Nigel Thomas. You hiding? Na hide.

  12. Well SIMON you like so many others do not read very well. Your adduced evidence for your stance as [John 3:16 states that “God so love the world…”] without a true understanding of that text. Martin Luther reminds us that in order to gleam Bible knowledge, Text must be used to understand Text. You further quote “Romans 1: 26, 27” without fully understanding its full ramifications.

    Yes God give them over to do what God hates. Read: 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 New King James Version (NKJV) “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    Yes God loves the whole of his creation, but it is quite obvious from a fuller reading of John 3:16 that it declares that only those believers in his unique son would be saved from his wrath. Note: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”.

    Whoever believes SIMON, that is, believers are particularly loved by God. So while God loves the created world generally, for him, believers are particularly loved and believers for their part, uses the Bible doctrines as their guide to life.

    You may not be familiar with the term “COMMON GRACE” Simon! That is, though the common grace of God, God sends his Rain and Sunshine for all people. He provides for all through “common grace”, that is, believers and non-believers, the good and the bad alike. Those whom he hates and those whom he loves.

    Christian believers however are particularly and peculiarly loved by God. His wrath for them having thus been taken in the body of his most unique son, thus they will be saves from his wrath to come and even be rewarded with “everlasting life” in the process!

    1. Hmmm! James H keeps on looking for loopholes just to criticize someone or a religion he clearly does not like. Humbly accept what the Bible teaches and stop looking for loopholes to criticize individuals or a religion. It’s disgusting! Of course, I know you are going to find some loophole(s) in what I say here. For obviously, you don’t seem to be humble at all! One Love still!

  13. It may not be in following the Western trends. But, if by and large our community reject a practice and there is a law against it. It has to be respected. At least in a proper democracy.

  14. St Vincent and the Grenadines has a myriad of issues in need of solutions and I’m puzzled as to why the attorney perceived this issue to be high on that list. It would not even make a top 50 list.
    We are a democracy: the voice of the people. The people are speaking loudly and clearly so that everyone can hear: sexual behavior such as the one presented by the attorney should not take precedence over more pressing needs. This LGBTQ preoccupation is largely Eurocentric. Most of the “Developing World” regard it as a feature of those Western countries whose “bread is already buttered.”

    The attorney may be versed in British derived “common law principles,” but he should not overlook the values of religious and communal law. Communal law I will expand on: Communal law and order principles are codes of behavior establish by communities for their viability, irrespective of a central judiciary. These law and order principles preceded British “common law.” If we were to explore insolated communities in the far flung area of the world, not affected by “common law,” we would discover that many of their law and order principles have higher levels of efficacy, compared to secular societies’ experience. Compare homicides rate, larceny, and other serious infractions: the results would be startling! Social mayhem is now a feature of many countries comprising the Americas.

    This is to establish that many things should be taken into consideration before communities embrace behaviors that emerge elsewhere. Communal law and order are parts of the local structure of SVG as well. Whether homosexual activities, abortion, prostitution, the people tend to give leeway. They may argue no man or woman is perfect, but it expects certain level of self -restraint. That’s not too much to ask for. The people are quite modest and that’s why “these activities” should remain at their current level.

  15. St Vincent and the Grenadines has a myriad of issues in need of solutions and I’m puzzled as to why the attorney sees this issue to be high on that list. It would not even make a top 25 list.

    We are a democracy: the voice of the people. The people are speaking loudly and clearly so that everyone can hear: sexual behavior such as the one presented by the attorney should not take precedence over more pressing needs. This LGBTQ preoccupation is largely Eurocentric. Most of the “Developing World” regard it as a feature of Western countries whose “bread is already buttered.”

    The attorney may be versed in British derived “common law principles,” but he should not overlook the values of religious and communal laws. Communal law is my interest here: Communal law and order principles are codes of behavior establish by communities for their viability, irrespective of a central judiciary. These law and order principles preceded British “common law.” If we explore insolated communities in the far flung area of the world, not affected by “common law,” we would discover that many of their law and order principles have higher levels of efficacy, compared to secular societies’ experience. Compare homicides rate, larceny, and other serious infractions: the results would be startling! Mayhem is now is feature of many nations the Americas.

    This is to establish that many things should be taken into consideration before communities embrace behaviors that emerge elsewhere. Communal law and order are parts of the local structure of SVG as well. Whether homosexual activities, abortion, prostitution, the people tend to give leeway. They may argue no man or woman is perfect, but they expect those involved to express self -restraint. That’s not too much to ask for. The people are quite modest and that’s why “these activities” should remain at their current levels.

  16. So right NATIONALIST, you could not have put your points better, “St Vincent and the Grenadines has a myriad of issues in need of solutions…” and you sure indeed ought to be very “puzzled as to why the attorney perceived this issue to be high on that list”. But remember this however, we constantly beg for our living abroad particularly in Europe and the Americas, where these issues have taken hold.

    We beg, and beg and beg year after year because of the failed far left tax and spend policies of the family regime who idealise Karl Marx, Fidel Castro, the Soviets and Chavez despite their known economics failures and whose authoritarian rule over us have brought us where we are.

    Truly another salient point that is so correct and as you have written there is that! “The people are speaking loudly and clearly so that everyone can hear: sexual behaviour such as the one presented by the attorney should not take precedence over more pressing needs”.

    Indeed, pressing needs such as a more pleasant living environment, better access to justice, cheaper utilities and above all jobs for the many who are of working age. Particularly private sector Jobs that can generate economic growth.

    Moreover, our Christian society is under severe attack from those whose belief system are rooted in their Marxism. They who tell us that they are godly, yet “their God is their belly” and their observed ungodliness is now a great hindrance to any moral growth among us and which can only work to our eventual disintegration as a people.

  17. I can almost hear the outcry of, what! To the statement “Those whom he hates and those whom he loves”? What is this nonsense! If God exist he does not in any way hate anyone. After all don’t you Christians say “God is love”?

    And yes indeed “God is love” but please do read what is said of God; “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness………”.Habakkuk 1:13 New King James Version (NKJV)

    And this too: Romans 9:9-16 New King James Version (NKJV)

    9 For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.”
    10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls),

    12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” 14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZARuVXiH8k

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