Caleb Orozco is a gay man in the tiny Caribbean country of Belize who is bringing an important legal challenge to a criminal statute that can land people in prison for 10 years for having gay sex.
He has been threatened. He has been physically assaulted. Now, he fears for his life. “I cannot walk the streets among a crowd anymore,” he said.
Attitudes in Belize have changed in recent times, Orozco said, and those changes can be traced to the involvement of U.S.-based religious-right groups that are providing legal expertise to the anti-LGBT forces in Belize and, at the same time, fomenting hate by spreading the same kind of false, demonizing propaganda they have developed in the U.S.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, publisher of Hatewatch, has today released an in-depth report on the situation in Belize and on six anti-gay groups that are spreading hate abroad. You can read the report here.
“The people who are riling things up or speaking up the loudest are the evangelicals,” Orozco said.
Before the arrival of the anti-gay groups, most people “had a live-and-let-live attitude toward gays,” he said, adding that the “controversy really gave people permission to express their hate in a way they didn’t see they had permission to do before.”
The situation is similar to Uganda, where a battle over the criminalization of LGBT sex has been raging for years. In 2010, a newspaper there published front-page photos and the home addresses of gay men under the headline “Hang Them.” Twenty-three days later, an LGBT activist on the list was murdered in his home.
“These American groups are clearly fanning the flames of anti-gay hatred,” said Heidi Beirich, author of the report and director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project.
“They need to explain how their stated goals of protecting religious liberty and marriage means bringing the full weight of the criminal law down on LGBT people.”