Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2019. 10:01 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: On Monday evening, a special meeting is being held at the Our Circle conference office in Belize City to help explain what changes for LGBT citizens of Belize and what doesn’t following yesterday’s Court of Appeal ruling.
Litigant Caleb Orozco says the community is skeptical, and rightly so, about whether the State will step up, but the community has marshaled its resources to train and deploy individuals in LGBT rights and family law as well as issues for marginalized communities.
“When I started, it was my face 24 hours, 7 days a week; now you can turn to a few more people to organize community events, and we collectively work to build a spirit of action, collaboration and organizing that was never there before the filing of this case,” he noted.
There is also a warning to couples, hetero-normative and otherwise, about their relationships and what rights they have.
Earlier this year it was clarified by Social Security at the time of the announcement of changes to the contribution scheme that in heterosexual couples – a man and a woman – the partner, male or female, is entitled to the other person’s benefits if he or she dies; that does not hold true for same-sex couples.
Senior Counsel Lisa Shoman issued important clarifications about the status of such unions, whose partners, she says, “have rights, but they have rights because the law says they have rights, and insofar as that is concerned, the law still restricts that to a man and a woman.”
But not just any man or woman – neither person can be legally married to anyone else. Also, the union must persist exclusively for a term of five years. Shoman says she sees some scope for a challenge to the Marriage Act or provisions of common-law unions.
Issues facing common-law (and LGBT) unions, says Shoman, includes benefits for children, hospital rights, settlement of estates especially intestate (without a will) individuals.
“The State recognizes marriage for one simple reason, you know: to regulate among people what are their rights and benefits in terms of each other, but also in terms of their children. Marriage as a sacrament is a church thing – that’s not what we’re talking about. None of this is going to change that for the churches: the churches will decide who they marry or who they don’t. This is in terms of the State, and the civil rights that flow from such a union,” Shoman stated.
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