In historic step, Belize court scraps law targeting gay and bisexual men

A law in Belize that disproportionately affects gay men was today ruled unconstitutional by the country’s Supreme Court after a three-year wait for the judgment.

Section 53 of Belize’s Criminal Code, an old British colonial law, banned ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’ and thereby made relationships between adult men in private illegal in Belize. Today, the provision has been ruled ‘unlawful’ to the extent that it can be applied to same-sex activity.

“With this ruling, Belize provides a ray of hope and a path forward for the global LGBT community, especially throughout the Caribbean," said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. "This is an important step forward that we hope will continue to build momentum and advance acceptance in 76 countries around the globe that criminalize LGBT people. Our communities – no matter where they live – deserve their identities to be affirmed and their lives protected from violence, hate, and discrimination – especially from their governments.”

The case is the culmination of years of work by a Caribbean-led coalition of LGBT advocates, academics and legal experts. Plaintiff Caleb Orozco, a Belizean gay man and prominent LGBT rights advocate, launched the case against his country’s government represented by the Attorney General.

Today Orozco said:

“This is the first day of my life in which it is legal for me to be me. This is a history-making judgment for Belize, the country which I am proud to call home. Our judicial system has been proven to be robust and unprejudiced. This judgment should give other oppressed groups the confidence to speak up and stand up for themselves in situations of human rights abuse in the way I have. Our courts really are there to protect us all. In striking down Section 53, Belize has also rejected a poisonous remnant of colonial rule. Instead we have reaffirmed ourselves as a society built on dignity and respect for all our people. This is a proud day.”

Orozco’s case was heard in May 2013. Today’s ruling - some three years and two months later - upholds Belize’s LGBT community’s human rights to privacy, equality, dignity and non-discrimination, all of which are protected under the country’s constitution.

While convictions under Section 53 in Belize were rare, the law carried a sentence of up ten years’ imprisonment effectively for consensual relationships between men.

There are still 76 legal jurisdictions across the world that make it a crime to be LGBT. Of these, 38 countries are, like Belize, members of the British Commonwealth.

The tweets below provide highlights from Human Dignity Trust and Belizian LGBT advocates: