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Section 53 argued in Court of Appeal

In August 2016, the Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin struck down Section 53 of the Criminal Code, thereby, legalizing same-sex relationship between consenting adults. The case was appealed by the Government of Belize and the Roman Catholic Church. However, the church eventually withdrew its appeal, leaving only the Government of Belize to pursue its appeal. Today, the case came up in the Court of Appeal. Solicitor General, Nigel Hawke, who represented the government/appellant pointed out that the government was not appealing the entire ruling of the Chief Justice. Part of Hawke’s argument was that sex should not be interpreted to include sexual orientation. Hawke spoke with the media after today’s hearing.

Nigel Hawke: “All fundamental issues that we are saying it was a bit of an overreach,  a sort of rule that sex was a sort of expanded to include sexual orientation because we are saying that there are certain constitutional prescriptions, separation of powers being a fundamental one and even the courts have to be very careful that they don’t overstep its boundary in relation to inter approving the constitution and that was one of our first points, the other point was that I think we are also ruling also Tide the incorporation of the international corporal and civil rights where the court rule that there was passive acceptance of it. We are saying it flies in the face of what the CCJ has said in voice that these things should be incorporated into our domestic law and those things are left to the parliament.”

The Court of Appeal also heard arguments from Attorney Westmin James, one of the attorneys for the respondent, Caleb Orozco, and Timothy Otty QC who represented the Human Rights interest. James had put forth in his argument that the appeal is primarily academic, therefore, it should be dismissed.   Attorney Lisa Shoman also spoke to the media after the hearing.

Lisa Shoman Attorney: “The judges are the guardians of what the constitution needs, it’s their job to interpret the constitution and Belize in this instance had ratified the ICCPR In 1996. In 1996 we made a decision to ratify this international treaty obligation and there is a long line of cases that say if you ratified and you upheld treaty obligations then those treaty obligations can and should, if there is any ambiguity in the meaning can and should be examined, can and should be included so for instance if you notice the section in the constitution does not say gender, its says sex and sex in all of the findings of the court, in all of the world has been held to include the idea of sexual orientation, In other words the broad meaning of sex, the full meaning of sex should also mean sexual orientation because otherwise they could have used the word gender if they wanted to limit it to gender.”

The court has reserved its judgment.