Section 53 decision wait continues

The decision on the constitutionality of Section 53 of the Criminal Code by Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin has been put off to August 10th, as confirmed when we visited the Supreme Court this morning. But PLUS News has learned that the main parties in the case did not receive notices from the court for today’s date as the date of judgment. Senior Counsel Rodwell Williams, an attorney for the church interested parties in the case, and an employee of absent Senior Counsel Lisa Shoman, Orozco’s chief counsel, both confirmed that those notices had only just been received and neither knew how the July 27th date was announced. The Chief Justice has been reported as being ill at this time but he was in court earlier this week on Monday hearing cases. The decision will – hopefully – be delivered while the court is officially on vacation as of August 1st. Caleb Orozco of Belize City contends that the law discriminates against his right to equal protection and liberty including sexual preference. Orozco, most recently president of the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) is asking the Supreme Court to declare that Section 53 is null and void and of no effect in relation to sex between consenting adult males, only having effect for bestiality (human sexual relations with animals).

As currently written the law decrees 10 years in prison on this charge.thYC86J7XV

The Government of Belize is named as the main defendant in the case, but the church community are also represented as interested parties through the Roman Catholic Church of Belize, the Belize Church of England (Corporate Body) and the Belize Evangelical Association of Churches. Other interested parties are the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, the Human Dignity Trust, and the International Commission of Jurists. Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay argued in court in May of 2013 that Orozco was not personally victimized as a result of Section 53. Since he did not suffer any personal prejudice, Courtenay said, Orozco’s claim had no real value. Courtenay told reporters that the proper place for Orozco to seek changes to the law is the National Assembly.

Belize’s church organizations had anticipated the decision with prayer rallies country wide including a major one last night in Battlefield Park which Pastor Scott Stirm said attracted as many as 300 people in a text message. The hearing before the Supreme Court is the first round of the legal battle. Whatever the decision ultimately is, it will likely be appealed at the Court of Appeal and subsequently at the Caribbean Court of Justice, as the diametrically opposed parties will no doubt continue to hold fast to their respective positions.

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