By Cathy Kristofferson, May 09, 2013
Day Three of the Caleb Orozco v. The Attorney General of Belize trial challenging the constitutionality of the Section 53 anti-sodomy penal code started with chatter in the courtroom about the Claimant Caleb Orosco’s home being vandalized:
This came on top of new reports last night on Belize Channel 5 News that threats of violence against Caleb and the gay community members close to him had escalated. Lisa Shoman, Attorney for Caleb Orozco, appealed to all, especially the media:
“There has been a visible increase of threats and violence against Mister Orozco and against all homosexuals in Belize. There are threats for killing, burning, shooting; you name it. It has to stop. We are all Belizeans. We can agree to disagree without getting violent about it.”
Arguments on behalf of the Attorney General of Belize were made today by Nigel Hawke, Senior Crown Counsel. Objections were entered to the Claimant’s reliance on Sections 11, 12 and 16 of the Constitution, which govern freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, and the right to non-discrimination. (In the afternoon session the Judge would rule that these sections are admissible. ) Next up was the argument that that there were no fundamental rights upon which Claimant could rely in the Belize Constitution. Counsel for the Defense argued that sexual orientation was not a basis for claiming the rights afforded to citizens under the Constitution, and therefor the rights the Claimant sought to enforce rights were “somehow mythical.” And that:
“It is within our right as a sovereign nation to keep Section 53 on the books as long as we want. It is the people’s right through their elected officials to change the law,” said Hawke.
In live tweeting from the courtroom I saw that the Attorney General was pleading “for the the moral nature of Belize”. I couldn’t help but sound the “activist judges” alert in my head when I saw the tweet that counsel for the Attorney General had said:
The District Attorney feels the Claimants issue is of a social nature and recommends taking the issue to the legislative bodies to get new, and undoubtedly soon to be labeled ‘special’, rights.
And in fact, in an interview on Belize’s “Open Your Eye” on Tuesday, Claeb Orosco’s counselors Shoman and Westmin James had disabused the public of the misconception that their client had not taken legislative steps toward the amendment of Section 53. To the contrary, Orozco had participated in broad-based national consultations which resulted in the clear recommendation for repeal of Section 53 by the Policy and Legislation Committee of the National AIDS Commission (NAC) back in 2009.
So just as I had commented above, Attorneys for the Claimant had to reiterate that their Claimant seeks no new rights, nor to make any changes to or in the Constitution, but simply “to enforce his fundamental freedoms and right to privacy, human dignity, and equal protection under the Constitution.”
Today’s arguments by the Attorney General amount to ‘take it to the legislature’, and from counsel for the churches to ‘homosexuality is a sin’.
Arguments in the case are scheduled to conclude tomorrow.
Caleb summed up today with this tweet:
A few tweets of the proceedings provided by Asa DeMatteo in the courtroom are below. See https://twitter.com/AsaDeMatteo for all of his tweets.