The Equal Opportunity Bill (EOB) was supposed to be introduced in today’s Sitting of the House of Representatives; however, it was decided that the bill would be withdrawn in yesterday’s Cabinet Meeting. The bill had plenty of opposition, especially from religious groups in the country. Apparently, though, the Cabinet members were in full support. The Prime Minister Dean Barrow explained the reason for the bill to be withdrawn despite the support it received.
Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “By and large Cabinet felt that this is a good bill, this is a necessary bill, it’s an overdue bill and Cabinet was very upset at having to make the decision not to proceed with it. Why did that decision come? The churches principally and I’m not talking about the Evangelical churches; we always knew what their position would be and I think we were prepared to contest that on the basis that to clear up the misconception that they obviously had there was never any question of trying to rush through the bill on the same day to do the three sittings at once and so we felt that since there would be time for people to make their views known at a House Committee meeting we were handling it the proper way but Monday night before the Tuesday Cabinet meeting Bishop Philip Wright from the mainstream churches, the Belize Council of Churches messaged me to say that they could not – the Council of Churches – could not support the bill as it now stands. That’s game set and match we’re not going to go against all the churches the Evangelicals plus the Belize Council of Churches. The suggestion seem to be from the Bishop that if only there were more time perhaps the matter might have been able to be worked on so as to have us come to an agreement. Fact is though that before this version came to Cabinet as you know there had been widespread consultations and our reports were that the drafters attempted to take on board everything that in particular the Evangelicals said. It doesn’t mean that the new draft gave them all that they wanted or left out all that they wished to have left out but it certainly I am convinced made a huge leap forward. It strikes me then that the Evangelicals will oppose the bill, have opposed the bill in this form and will oppose any bill of a similar nature and that I personally think is backwards. There’s a point we will have to get to man, equal opportunities for people Lord we’re living in an enlightened society the constitution guarantees people equal opportunities so to put it in a regular law so that the details can be fleshed out and so that people can have that kind of umbrella protection I repeat it’s completely overdue.”
Bishop of Belize City and Belmopan, Lawrence S Nicasio, issued a release today in which they stated that they felt as though the bill was rushed. They also have isses with the unparalleled power they feel it would give to the Commission and Tribunal. They also feel it will infringe on the freedom of religion. Additionally, they are of the view that the bill introduces a third sex and may negatively affect the family structure. They also believe that youths will be confused as it relates to sexuality and sex.