- December 19, 2013
Post submitted by Rebecca Parks, former Associate Director, HRC Global
A week ago, the Indian Supreme Court issued a ruling that recriminalized same sex relationships in the world’s largest democracy. While the Indian government and people around the world reacted with shock and protest, a small group of religious conservatives has wholeheartedly embraced the ruling.
Radio host Bryan Fischer immediately praised the ruling and held it up as an example for the United States saying “we need a Supreme Court which will do the same.” Alliance Defending Freedom’s Benjamin Bull echoed that sentiment and wrote that “America needs to take note that a country of 1.2 billion people has rejected the road towards same-sex marriage.”
But perhaps the most disturbing reaction came from Belize. In Belize, LGBT activists are fighting a legal battle against the Central American nation’s laws against same-sex relationships. Much like in India, these laws are a holdover from the days when Belize was a British colony. Opposition to decriminalizing being gay is led by an American missionary named Scott Stirm.
Although he originally hails from Waco, Texas, Stirm has been in Belize for more than 20 years. His organization, Belize Action, has received support from American rightwing groups like C-FAM , Alliance Defending Freedom and the fringe Phoenix church Extreme Prophetic Action. Stirm has been an outspoken opponent of LGBT rights claiming that gay people “are after the children” and that the campaign to decriminalize homosexuality in Belize was “an orchestrated plan of demonic darkness.”
Stirm has wholeheartedly embraced India’s Supreme Court ruling calling it “a huge breakthrough against the international agenda to push legalizing homosexuality upon non-western countries” and expressing his hope that Belize’s chief justice will follow the lead of their fellow Commonwealth nation in continuing to criminalize same-sex relationships.
Rhetoric like Stirm’s has led to a culture of fear and violence for LGBT people in Belize. According to United Belize Advocacy Movement, gay people in Belize live “in the midst of hostile societal conditions.” Caleb Orozco, the activist leading the case to overturn the law criminalizing being gay, has faced numerous death threats as his case has proceeded and several LGBT people have been murdered in the past few years.
The case against Belize’s “unnatural acts” law is still pending, and despite the activities of Stirm and his American allies, activists remain hopeful that the court will strike down this unjust law and make it possible for all Belizeans to live and love free of fear.