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Caribbean Court of Justice says Gay man free to challenge Belize immigration law

By Aaron Humes
Freelance Reporter

The section of Belize’s Immigration Law which bans homosexuals from entering Belize is, by its very existence, prejudicial to these persons, the Caribbean Court of Justice ruled Thursday.

The CCJ said this as it granted special leave to Jamaican homosexual activist Maurice Tomlinson to file an application challenging Section 5 (1) (e) of Belize’s Immigration Act under the CCJ’s original jurisdiction (that is to say the court’s power to hear and decide a case for the first time.

Presenting the judgment of the court, CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron said that Tomlinson had met the standard of presenting an arguable case.
According to the court, even though like Belize states argue that they do not treat homosexuals that way in practice, the very existence of the laws amounts to prejudice.

Last November, Tomlinson, a legal advisor to the organization AIDS Free World, a gay activist and attorney for 14 years, argued through attorneys, Lord Anthony Gifford, QC, and Anika Gray that the very existence of the law is an infringement on the rights of homosexuals like himself.

Tomlinson said the law is an affront to his dignity,even though he has visited Belize several times previously without public objection or repercussions.

Tomlinson argued that the ban violates the letter and spirit of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which establishes the Caribbean Community and grants unrestricted freedom of movement to its citizens, such as himself.

Lord Gifford declaredthat if Belize and Trinidad were to accept any other interpretation of the law, they would open themselves to local challenge.
The CCJ agreed, saying today that “it was in the interest of justice that the matter proceed, as it calls into question significant aspects of community law, its relationship with domestic law and the obligation of states.”

Following the ruling, Acting Solicitor General of Belize Nigel Hawke said the Government of Belize would now prepare to present its full case, emphasizing that this is just the beginning.

Hawke said he does not expect to call immigration officials as witnesses to testify as to what practices Belize has with regard to homosexuals.
Tomlinson, who is married to a Canadian pastor, won this stage of the case without support from his native country, Jamaica, which considered that he had previously travelled to both Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, unaware of the law he claims is discriminatory, and could point to no obvious mistreatment or impediment.

The applications will now be consolidated into one claim and filed within the next seven days according to court rules.

Belize was defended by Hawke and colleagues Illiana Swift and Mark Ramsey, while Trinidad’s defense team was led by Senior Counsel Seenath Jairam.

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