BELMOPAN–Back in August 2014, the recently installed US Ambassador to Belize, H.E. Carlos Moreno, told the media at a roundtable session that ”there is no LGBT agenda by the US Government.” At that same session, Ambassador Moreno – the lone judge to stand against Proposition 8 in California, a petition to overturn homosexual marriage – had confirmed to the press that the US Government had given grants to the LGBT activist group in Belize, UNIBAM, and he also expressed the view that LGBT rights are a subset of rights that are accorded to everyone.
There has been no further discussion with the media on LGBT rights since, but on the occasion of the 19th International Day for Tolerance observed on Sunday, November 16, 2014, the US Embassy published a statement from “past and present U.S. Ambassadors” on Belize’s LGBT policy.
In that statement, the US Ambassadors, including Moreno, boldly call on Belize to “repeal the anti-sodomy laws, provisions of which are inconsistent with Belize’s obligations with respect to privacy rights protected by Article 17 of the ICCPR.” The ICCPR is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the US Government said Belize became a party in 1996.
“We have watched closely the efforts by the government of Belize, such as Prime Minister Barrow’s September 2013 statement on human rights, and First Lady Kim Simplis Barrow’s May 2013 remarks on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, to create a more inclusive society that better serves its most vulnerable citizens. We applaud these statements but respectfully suggest that more must be done,” the Ambassadors said.
The statement comes a month after the Barrow administration reached an accord with the Belizean religious community, indicating that the revised gender policy would retain the traditional definition of gender – meaning man or woman, according to the Rome Statute definition used by the International Criminal Court, which says that gender refers “to the two sexes, male and female, within the context of society.”
However, the US Ambassadors’ statement calls on Belize to “uphold the Revised National Gender Policy to better respect and protect equal protection under the law.”
The US Ambassadors also say that Belize should “conduct a legal assessment of the state’s constitutional responsibility to its LGBT citizens to guide the development of a formal policy consideration;” and “build the capacity within the judicial system to recognize and protect the rights of members of vulnerable populations including LGBT persons, indigenous peoples, and women and girls.”
They also say that Belize has no laws to punish hate crimes against LGBT persons, and calls on GOB to “raise public awareness on hate speech and hate crimes and their impact on historically marginalized groups and the society as a whole.”