BELIZE CITY, Fri. Sept. 16, 2016–Today, exactly 21 days after Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin issued his judgment on August 10, striking down Section 53 of the Criminal Code which has outlawed sodomy for decades, the National Evangelical Association of Belize (NEAB) filed court papers as an interested party late this evening, appealing the ruling.
President of the NEAB, Pastor Lance Lewis, told reporters, “We are here to sign the document that says we are appealing the decision by the Chief Justice to remove the sodomy law in Belize.”
The NEAB was not the only entity to have filed papers for an appeal of the ruling today, however. The Roman Catholic Church and the Government of Belize also filed appeal papers, challenging certain aspects of Chief Justice Benjamin’s decision.
When the decision to strike down Section 53 was initially announced, Prime Minister Dean Barrow had said that the government would not have appealed the decision, which was hailed regionally as a major victory for the LGBT community (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender).
The churches of Belize, however, were not happy with the Supreme Court decision to strike down the old sodomy law, and after meeting with PM Barrow a number of times, they were able to persuade him that the government should at least appeal some aspects of the decision.
Attorney representing the NEAB, Dickie Bradley, explained, “That filing of that document is an application by Pastor Lance Lewis and Pastor Scott Stirm on behalf of the churches that are part of the Evangelical Association.”
Bradley explained, “They are seeking permission to join in the appeal in relation to the now famous or infamous Section 53 ruling today. This is because the National Association of Evangelical Churches was not an interested party; not listed, they have to seek permission from the courts to be allowed to go and argue their position in relation to the matter. The Roman Catholics have also filed their appeal today challenging just about all the decisions that came out of the Chief Justice’s decision handed down on the 10th of August.”
Bradley said that regardless of who wins at the first round, there will be a rematch and the case will eventually end up at the Caribbean Court of Justice.
NEAB Pastor Scott Stirm said, “This is the day for us as a church to be able to stand strong, particularly for family protection. I think that people have tried to wrongfully paint this as people trying to dictate what’s happening in the bedroom. For us, it’s not about that at all; it’s about protecting the children.”
Bradley further explained, “They feel that if gay people come and want to marry, they will have a problem in their schools and churches; they want that to be clarified. I was impressed with the discussion with the churches because they took the view, which is a very important view in Belize, that this major historic decision has several implications for religious people … the churches (who) must be involved in the matter of the public morals of the society.
“The decision of his lordship is saying different, so these are matters that need to be clarified. So, to be clear, the churches are appealing on the issue of sex as differentiated from sexual orientation, and on the issue of whether consenting adults can engage in anal sex. The Evangelical churches feel this issue is the thin edge of the wedge, meaning that if they let this change slip through, then the next thing you know, pretty soon those two men in the coat of arms on the flag will be exchanging wedding bands. Seems extreme, but for Christian conservatives, legalizing sodomy is walking down a slippery slope.”
Pastor Lewis pointed out the rationale behind the church’s stand against the ruling which legitimizes sodomy: “… sodomy between interesting parties or consenting adults is opening the door for some of those adults to go further down the line to younger people, to get the society feeling like sodomy is okay now. It’s free day, it’s an open day, and this is opening that door for more to come.
“In fact, one of the lawyers with the LGBT group said that the door is open and some more things will come through the door. That is usually the case in the United States, and in Belize, it could be that, but we are trying to nail that down so we do not go any further on this.”
Pastor Stirm thinks that all the issues are in violation of the declaration of human rights: “[They want ] to swing the whole thing into a re-interpretation of special human rights, that’s what we are calling it, special human rights. We find it to be inaccurate and inappropriate and actually in violation of the universal declaration of human rights,” he said.
“So when you say human rights, do you include gay rights?” one reporter asked.
Pastor Lewis, replied, “Gay rights is not a human right.”
Pastor Stirm chimed in, “We are talking about human rights for humans. Gay rights are for gays, when you’re talking about gay rights, you talking about special rights for one special group of people. We are talking about human rights for all humans.”
Bradley pointed out, “His Lordship, the Chief Justice, is saying that gay persons in this country cannot be allowed to be treated as if they do not also enjoy the freedom of expression, so if you feel gay, and you want to express yourself ‘gaily,’ a man would say, ‘I’m really a woman, I want to put on my lipstick, earring, high heel shoes and my clothes’, and perhaps he wants to go teach in the schools; the schools cannot stop that person from expressing himself.
“If, as you have been reporting, there was a student in the Cayo District or out West who appeared to be a boy, but he wanted to go and use the girl’s toilet, he is expressing who he is, his freedom. The churches were of the view that that is the correct interpretation that that it is going to create a major upside-down relationship in terms of the core values of the evangelical Christians in Belize.
“In fact, I expect perhaps as early as the carnival tomorrow, that there might be a gay element in the carnival. Let me just say this for the benefit of your viewers, to be a homosexual or a lesbian in this country.