Belize case said being used to push gay agenda in Caribbean

Sunday, May 19, 2013

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A gay Belizean man’s court challenge of that country’s anti-sodomy law is part of a larger effort by the homosexual lobby to get buggery laws repealed in the Caribbean and push that lifestyle on the public, according to a local group.

"There seems to be an agenda going through the Caribbean; there is Belize, and as far as I know there is a similar case in Trinidad, but there is also one pending in Jamaica and it is something that Caribbean people need to be aware of," said Shirley Richards of the Jamaican Coalition for Healthy Living.

Richards and the coalition’s chair, Dr Wayne West, made the observations in an interview with the Jamaica Observer last Thursday, two days after the Supreme Court in Belize heard Caleb Orozco’s case.

Orozco and his United Belize Advocacy Movement are trying to overturn Belize’s ban on homosexuality. Section 53 of the law states that "every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal shall be liable to imprisonment for 10 years".

According to the statute, sex between consenting same-sex adults is one such unnatural act.

The law is being defended by the churches in Belize, with one evangelical preacher, Scott Strim, reportedly describing it as "a good law that protects human dignity" on the grounds that it is often used in sex abuse cases.

The churches’ position is being supported by the Jamaican Coalition for Healthy Living.

"The churches in Belize decided to rise up and to apply for status because the churches were very concerned about what has happened in other countries and the possibility of it happening there," Richards told the Sunday Observer.

"From my understanding, it was an intense moment in Belize. There were protests, silent protests, polling and rallies while the matter was being heard," Richards said.

A ruling in the case is expected to be handed down in July. But West and his coalition are not sitting still while the court deliberates.

They are warning Caribbean citizens, including Jamaicans, to be aware of the terrible consequences that a repeal of the buggery law will bring about, especially to those who staunchly reject homosexuality.

"I think that there is a deliberate action to get these laws repealed in the Caribbean," Richards said.

The advocacy group said that it has grave concerns about the actions and punishment that will be meted out to persons who speak out against homosexuality if the law is repealed.

"One may ask why bother about what people do in the privacy of their own homes, what is the big thing," Dr West said. "It is not simply about tolerating their behaviour and not being impacted, it is [the public] being forced to accept it and being punished for it if you don’t accept it."

West and Richards pointed to two cases in England in which a teacher was fired from his job and banned from teaching for saying that homosexuality is a sin, and a registrar was sacked from her job after she refused to marry same-sex couples.

They also spoke of a case in New Mexico where a photographer was fined US$6,000 for refusing to take pictures at a gay couple’s wedding ceremony, and another in Washington, DC where a florist is being sued for her refusal to provide flowers at a gay couple’s wedding.

"This is what is happening now, and will continue to happen and is going to happen in places like Jamaica unless we understand and take a stand," Dr West said.

These incidents, Richards noted, "start with a repeal of the buggery law, and as Jamaicans, we need to open our eyes to what is happening in the world and how changing the law will affect us."

Added Dr West: "When you remove the sodomy law, you have now removed the basis for saying that anything is abnormal, so removing the law is not simply that they are going to do what they want; it is how it affects the public."

The coalition issued a challenge to the Jamaican people, as well as the churches, to unite and defend the buggery law, just as the churches in Belize are doing.

Richards said while the outcome of the Belize case is important, the effort that is made by the people to resist a removal of the law is much more significant.

"While we cannot guarantee outcomes, it is important that we see the dangers ahead and make every effort to resist [them]. Let us look and see how the people of Belize responded and learn from that," Richards said.

Dr West said that if the law is to be repealed here, it should be left entirely up to the Jamaican public to decide. However, they should be given the opportunity to make an informed decision.

"If the Jamaican society wants that, then that is something that they should get as a democratic society, but I don’t think it should just come upon us without people being aware, and the court cases in Belize and in Jamaica will do just that," he said.

"Once the law is removed, it will clear the way for the starting of the process that will result in the legalisation of homosexuality," he added.

The coalition said that it has crafted a declaration in opposition to the repeal of the buggery law and will be intensifying its drive to get more people to sign it in support.

Additionally, the group said it has already decided what action it will be taking in light of the situation, but declined to give details at this time.

Asked to comment on the issue, Reverend Peter Garth said that the church stands ready to defend the buggery law as homosexuality is a dangerous practice.

"Once you remove the buggery law it paves the way for same-sex marriage and it paves the way for it to be taught in schools that it is normal, and if you look at other jurisdictions you will see that it is only a matter of time," said Garth.

"We want people to understand the implications of men having sex with men, the dangers that are there, the cost that it will bring to our nation, the whole issue of morality and we are prepared to defend it (the buggery law)," he said.

Rev Garth made it clear that he was not disputing the fact that homosexuals have human rights. However, he took issue with the fact that in their demands for human rights they are also calling for punishment for persons who oppose them.

"They do have human rights, but what I don’t think people are looking at is that they are crying for human rights but at the same time the homosexual agenda is not about human rights, they are talking about punitive actions. If we have a march, they would want us to be punished for having that march, and you can see what is happening the world over," he said.


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