BELIZE CITY, Tues. Mar. 6, 2018– In August 2016, Belize Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin, after a long delay, handed down a ruling which struck down the old sodomy law known as Section 53 that was challenged by Caleb Orozco and his United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM).
Following the Chief Justice’s ruling, the churches of Belize went up in arms against that judicial decision and hastily filed an appeal against the decision which struck down Section 53, making sodomy a legal act between consenting adults.
Now more than a year and a half after that decision and with their appeal in the judicial pipeline, however, the Catholic Church has withdrawn its appeal against the Chief Justice’s Section 53 decision. The decision of Belize’s largest denomination was communicated to the Court of Appeal last Friday morning by its attorney, Philip Zuniga, S.C., who urged the court to: “Take notice that the Roman Catholic Church, the Appellant in Civil Appeal Number 31… hereby wholly withdraws its appeal against the Respondent.”
The Catholic Church’s decision to withdraw from the case leaves the decision of the Chief Justice entirely intact.
There was, however, a limited appeal that has been filed by the government which has to do with the interpretation of “sex” in the constitution, and which aims to expand that definition to include “sexual orientation.”
Today, Tuesday, the president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Manuel Sosa, asked the Solicitor General, Nigel Hawke, if the state would want to reconsider its appeal.
Upon exiting the court, the attorney for Orosco and UNIBAM, Lisa Shoman, S.C. told reporters, “Mr. Orozco has been very clear that we are not seeking any kind of legal costs against the Roman Catholic Church. That leaves then, only Appeal #32 of 2016, which is the State, or the Attorney General against Mr. Orozco, and the Interested Parties.”
Solicitor General Hawke said, “I think the Court invited me look at certain circumstances, but as you know, I’m a law officer of the Crown, so I have to take instructions on the intimation from the Court. So, we’ll see how that goes. They’ve also indicated that they’ll write to us.”
In a press release, the National Evangelical Association of Belize said, “The National Evangelical Association of Belize is saddened at the Roman Catholic Bishop’s decision to withdraw from the Section 53 Sodomy Lawsuit Appeal. It is our firm belief that Godly values must be actively guarded and nurtured, and that the Church is tasked with the responsibility as guardians of those Godly values. We as NEAB are resolute to stand for what’s right in God’s eyes and urge all Belizeans to do the same. God will make a way where there seems to be no way.”