Debevoise Represents Human Dignity Trust, International Committee of Jurists and Commonwealth Lawyers Association in Landmark Belizean Court of Appeal Ruling

6 January 2020

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP secured a victory on December 30, 2019, after nine years of litigation in Belizean courts, for LGBTQ rights on behalf of Human Dignity Trust, the International Committee of Jurists and the Commonwealth Lawyers Association. In this victory, the Belize Court of Appeal ruled that LGBT people are protected by nondiscrimination laws, that Belize’s Constitutional prohibition on “sex discrimination” includes “sexual orientation discrimination” and that sexual expression is protected by the right to freedom of expression.

In 2011, the firm filed the case alongside local activists challenging the section of Belize’s Criminal Code which criminalized adult consensual same-sex relations. In 2016, the Belize Supreme Court agreed that the provision was unconstitutional because it discriminated against the LGBT community in Belize and violated the constitutional rights to dignity, equality before the law, privacy, freedom of expression, and nondiscrimination on the grounds of sex.

The government appealed that decision and challenged the ruling that the criminal code section constituted discrimination on the grounds of sex, similar to the arguments regarding Title VII that were heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019, and that it violated the right of freedom of expression. Each of these arguments are novel in the global legal landscape and more firmly establish critical legal principles in the British Commonwealth and around the globe.

Debevoise litigation partner Lord Goldsmith QC and international dispute resolution associate Conway Blake represented the Human Dignity Trust, the International Committee of Jurists and the Commonwealth Lawyers Association in the proceedings.