7 News Belize

Gay Man Maurice Tomlinson Goes To The CCJ About Belize’s Discriminatory Immigration Law
posted (March 18, 2015)

Remember Jamaican Maurice Tomlinson? He’s the well-known gay rights activist from that country who started to sue the governments of Belize and Trinidad and Tobago over the immigration laws which he claims is discriminatory to him and other LGBT persons living in the Caribbean Community. He decided to take his case to the highest court in the land for both countries, the Caribbean Court of Justice.

For the past 2 days, officials from both countries have been at the CCJ headquarters in Port of Spain, Trinidad arguing against his claim in an attempt to convince the judges that the discriminatory interpretation that Tomlinson has chosen to take is wrong since neither of these two countries has ever prevented gay persons from entering before.

Tomlinson’s case is novel because it seeks to invoke the original jurisdiction of the Court, and he to get to this appeal case, he had to seek to be heard as an individual because his country, Jamaica, refused to get involved on his behalf via the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

With video provided by the Caribbean Court of Justice we’ve prepared an excerpt of the hearing as it unfolded in yesterday’s session. In it, Tomlinson’s attorney, Douglas Mendez, the former judge of the Belizean Court of Appeal, was cross-examining Acting Director of Immigration Maria Marin on the Belizean Immigration law. He was making the point that homosexuals are classed as prohibited immigrants, while Maria Marin was explaining Belize has never enforced the law because there is an unwritten policy not to stop or criminally prosecute visitors simply because of their sexual orientation:

Douglas Mendez – Attorney for Maurice Tomlinson

"Is it possible that, someone may enter Belize and you commit entry not knowing the person is gay, right. I'm asking if that person having entered and you subsequently discover that the person who you allowed entry in is gay. And therefor possibly in violation of section 323, that i've just directed your attention to. Is it the policy of your department not to prosecute that person under section 323?"

Maria Marin – Acting Director of Immigration, Belize

"Yes, we do not prosecute just on the basis of a person being gay."

Douglas Mendez

"You don't prosecute?"

Maria Marin

"We do not prosecute just on the basis of that person being gay."

Douglas Mendez

"But as you said, that policy is not in writing? And you are only aware of it because it's simply hasn't happened."

Maria Marin

"We do not. It's because as a matter of policy, the department does not."

Douglas Mendez

"I know that, but you said, I asked you how are you aware of the policy. You said that you are aware of it because it does not happen."

Maria Marin

"It has never happened'

Nigel Hawke – Deputy Solicitor General, Belize

"Are you aware, since you've been at the immigration department, of any situation in Belize where gay person came to Belize, were admitted to Belize and never prosecuted?"

Maria Marin

"Yes sir."

Nigel Hawke

"What is that situation? What occurred? You recall any incident where gay persons were admitted into Belize and not prosecuted?"

Maria Marin

"Yes, in 1998, a cruise ship of some 900 gay men and women docked at our port and all 700 of those gay persons who requested entry to Belize was admitted into Belize. And gay persons consistently visit Belize."

Nigel Hawke

"But of those 700 who were admitted into Belize, was there any prosecution in relation to those 700 plus person?"

Maria Marin

"None sir, no prosecution.”

Nigel Hawke

“Thank you.”

The Chief Immigration Officer of Trinidad & Tobago also explained that there is this unwritten policy in that country not to enforce the law as Tomlinson is interpreting it. Tomlinson’s attorney, Douglas Mendez, also pointed to the precedent set in April 2007 in Trinidad when performer Elton John, who is openly gay, had to get a special permit from the Immigration Department to enter the country for a concert. Tomorrow night, we’ll tell you more about how the case unfolded.

Home | Archives | Downloads/Podcasts | Advertise | Contact Us

7 News Belize