Bishop Nicasio, whose diocese encompasses the entire country of 383,000 people, voiced his desire "to end unjust discrimination and all injustice" and pledged cooperation to work towards these ends, but he said the Catholic Church could not support the bill for several reasons.
The bill could infringe on parents' rights, and, given the power of law to form consciences and opinions, the bill would "do much to confuse the youth of Belize regarding the sacredness of sexuality." Sexuality is "a way toward holy matrimonial union and the conception of children," he said.
The view of human nature behind the bill also drew criticism from the bishop, who said "the novelty of the anthropology" in it was another reason not to support it. The bill recognizes "intersex" as a sex in addition to male and female.
"The bill introduces the notion that humanity has three sexes instead of two, the notion that subjective gender identity is more important than one's God-given biological sex and would impose on Belizeans the task of 'gender mainstreaming'."
It would give "unparalleled power" to an Equal Opportunities Commission and an Equal Opportunities Tribunal. In the name of fighting discrimination, it could endanger freedom of conscience and religion. While the bill made some exceptions for religious organizations, there were none for "individual believers with deeply-held, Bible-formed beliefs." He warned the bill could create a "pendulum effect" and enable discrimination against these individuals.
For Fr. Robinson, the bill itself was "not a surprise." He saw it as "only one manifestation of an ongoing social engineering experiment."
"However, the extreme nature of the proposals was surprising, especially the creation of an entirely independent judicial branch with the rank of a supreme court and the power invested in the Commission/Tribunal with no real checks or balances."
After the bill failed to advance, Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow told reporters Sept. 16 that the cabinet was "very upset" not to proceed with it and felt it was a good, necessary, and "overdue" bill, PlusTV Belize reported. He said the Belize constitution provides equal opportunity and the bill would have provided an "umbrella of protection".
He claimed it was a misconception that the legislation would be "rushed" since there would be time for views to be voiced in committee. Barrow insisted that there had been "widespread" consultations.
The Anglican Bishop of Belize, Phillip Wright, in his role heading the Belize Council of Churches, had told the prime minister the council could not support the bill as it was written. The Roman Catholic Church in Belize is also a member of the council.
Backers of the bill were planning to proceed in the face of expected opposition from evangelical Christians, but opposition from other churches was too much, according to Barrow.
"We're not going to go against all the churches, the evangelicals plus the Belize Council of Churches," said the prime minister. According to Barrow, Wright seemed to suggest that further work could have resulted in an agreement.
The U.K.-based Human Dignity Trust, an LGBT advocacy group, aided with the drafting of the Belize bill. In an April 17 announcement, the trust said the Belize bill was "the first of their kind for the Caribbean region." The trust "supported the process of public consultations on the proposed legislation" and translated the legal documents into "digestible explanatory materials for everyday Belizeans."
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The trust is a member of the Equality and Justice Alliance, a consortium of three NGOs which received about $7.25 million from the U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office in 2018 for a two-year program. This program aimed to engage Commonwealth leaders, governments and civil society leaders "to advance equality and equal protection before the law in order to secure the rights of all Commonwealth citizens, regardless of gender, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression."
Besides the U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office and others, the trust is presently funded by the Canadian government's diplomatic department Global Affairs Canada; the Tides Foundation's Equality Without Borders Fund; the Open Society Foundations; and the Sigrid Rausing Trust, among others.
The Human Dignity Trust worked with the Belize National AIDS Commission and Office of the Special Envoy for Women and Children "in order to create an enabling environment for the introduction of this progressive legislation."
Its specific efforts included a "public education campaign" on television, radio, a website and social media. Its public service announcements were "designed to break down stigma and encourage respect and tolerance for LGBT people, women and girls and people with disability," the trust said.
Belize First Lady Kim Simplis Barrow, wife of Prime Minister Barrow, served as Belize's Special Envoy for Women and Children through Oct. 1. She has praised the Human Dignity Trust's work on the Equal Opportunity Bill.
While critics of Belize's bill see it as a form of ideological colonialism, some backers of this international effort claim they were making amends for the colonial legacy of the British Empire. Then-Prime Minister Theresa May spoke to the Joint Forums of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2018, voicing "deep regret" that Britain had instituted "discriminatory laws," including the criminalization of same-sex sexual relations, in its Commonwealth territories.