By Cathy Kristofferson, July 15, 2013
Maurice Tomlinson, the Jamaican attorney and HIV activist who recently sued three Jamaican TV channels for refusing to broadcast gay positive public service announcements, will be in court again Wednesday. This time for the first hearing of his challenge to the immigration entry bans of both Belize and the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago. The case has been brought in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) which is the highest court in the region.
The two countries are the only ones in the Caribbean, in fact the sole countries in the Western Hemisphere, with laws banning entry of homosexuals.
Section 5(1) of the Immigration Act of Belize reads:
“… [T]he following persons are prohibited immigrants – … (e) any prostitute or homosexual or any person who may be living on or receiving or may have been living on or receiving the proceeds of prostitution or homosexual behaviour….”
Trinidad and Tobago law bans homosexual men and women who are not citizens from entering. Section 8 of their Immigration Act, similar to Belize’s though with the additional immorality claim, reads:
(1) Except as provided in subsection (2), entry into Trinidad and Tobago of the persons described in this subsection, other than citizens and, subject to section 7(2), residents, is prohibited, namely-
(e) … homosexuals or persons living on the earnings of … homosexuals, or persons reasonably suspected as coming to Trinidad and Tobago for these or any other immoral purposes….
Tomlinson is challenging the two countries in the Caribbean Court of Justice because he believes these laws, in addition to being discriminatory, violate his right to freedom of movement across the region.
Back in late 2012, Tomlinson was invited to Belize to give a presentation on the impact of homophobia on the HIV response but was forced to decline as he did not want to knowingly break the law.
Prior to the Belize invitation, Tomlinson was invited to speak at a UN meeting in Trinidad & Tobago but similarly was forced to decline due to their immigration law banning his entry as a gay man.
You may also recall that this April, Tomlinson would again not violate the Belize immigration laws in order to travel there to watch his son compete in the country’s national spelling bee.
The immigration law sections of Belize and Trinidad & Tobago which ban his entry as a gay man, are not enforced often, but Tomlinson wants no part of lying when he being asked upon entry why he is visiting the particular country. Tomlinson knows the laws and the consequences of breaking them as he is an attorney and Legal Counsel for Marginalized Groups at the advocacy organization AIDS Free World.
We are all familiar with old laws on the books which “are not always enforced” and yet which suddenly appear to be used to discriminate against a minority when convenient. Best that they be removed before they can again be used as a weapon.
The case seeking to have the two countries’ discriminatory immigration law sections barring entry of homosexuals, and also sections that ban disabled people, struck down begins this Wednesday. We will follow the case here on OBLOGDEE and provide updates as they become available.
7/18 Update: 7 News Belize is reporting that following yesterday’s hearing Tomlinson is “making an application for special leave to be heard as an individual. …and the court has scheduled this application hearing for November 12.”