Belizean attitude towards gays and lesbians has to take a practical common-sense approach.
Gays and lesbians are real. They exist. They are as real as handicapped people. And because they exist we cannot ignore them. We recognize that they have to eat and sleep and work– just like the rest of us.
We have programmes for handicapped people, to help them through life. Gays and lesbians also need help, though perhaps not institutional help.
Do gays have a right to exist?
Yes, they do.
Do they have equal rights before the law?
Yes, they do.
Do they have the right to an education, to community-based health programmes, to Social Security?
Yes they do.
In fact, gays and lesbians have all the rights that our Belizean Constitution offers. They have the right to travel without restriction, to speak their mind openly, to worship freely, and to form their own associations and friendships.
These things they have been doing for years, and will continue to do.
But are you required to invite them into your home?
Are you expected to associate with them by offering hospitality, employment, social conversation and the comfort of friendship? No!!
One is free to do so of course. But this should be by choice, not by any legal requirement.
Belizeans know instinctively how to live in harmony with one another. We do it spontaneously, and we have become a shining example for the rest of the world.
If anyone tries to put this indefinable quality of warmth and hospitality into the cold context of law, it could easily destroy the harmony which now exists by general consensus.
Gays and lesbians should be circumspect in how they behave in public, not to give offence to other people who do not share their lifestyle. And they should not try hold out inducements to others, to join their ranks.
Heterosexual men and women are cautioned that it is an offence against civil law to show or plot violence against gay people. But gay people must similarly be warned that they must not try to seduce others to join their lifestyle. If we can lay down certain ground rules for peaceful coexistence we shall continue to live in harmony and there will be no need for harsh laws.
People with communicable disease – AIDS or TB, are required to live circumspectly and not go about contaminating the people around them. Similarly, people with a deviant lifestyle must be mindful of the rights of others and not try to impose themselves on the society.
If we can choose a common-sense approach we won’t have to worry about disharmony in our society over sexual lifestyles.