Death threats against Caleb Orozco, the gay rights campaigner attempting to overturn laws that criminalise homosexuality in Belize, have escalated during the four-day courtroom hearing, his lawyer has claimed.
The high-profile challenge to the Caribbean state’s colonial-era "anti-buggery" legislation has stirred up resentment of the gay community, according to Lisa Shoman.
"There has been a visible increase of threats and violence against Mr Orozco and against all homosexuals in Belize," she told the local News 5 TV channel in the capital Belize City.
"There are threats for killing, burning, shooting; you name it. It has to stop. We are all Belizeans. We can agree to disagree without getting violent about it."
The London-based Human Dignity Trust, which is supporting his case as part of its global campaign to decriminalise homosexuality, said Orozco’s car had been damaged in an attack on Thursday night.
The country’s supreme court is expected to reserve its decision on the legality of section 53 of Belize’s criminal code, which outlaws "carnal intercourse" between consenting same-sex adults. The four-day hearing is due to end on Friday afternoon.
Belize’s main churches have formally joined the court case, opposing decriminalisation. Bishop Phillip Wright, head of the Anglican community in Belize, said he did not see "homosexual behaviour as consistent with the witness of scripture" but deplored intimidation.
He added: "We do not support any form of violence against persons of a homosexual orientation and we distance ourselves from any such action or tendency in the wider population. After all, the church has to find a way to bring people together and to encourage hatred and that form of bigotry really is not acceptable in our book at all."
In an interview with Channel 5, a local Catholic priest, Ian Taylor, took a different approach, declaring: "Globally it has been determined by states that violence against homosexuals is highest within the homosexual communities itself. First of all the victim syndrome that they tend to portray is actually within the community itself – they are aggressive against each other, and less from those who are considered heterosexual."
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