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Gays want the right to move freely within CARICOM

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Jamaican attorney and gay rights activist Maurice Tomlinson is urging the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to force the Trinidad and Tobago government and Belize to scrap immigration laws which prevents gay people from entering both countries.

According to Tomlinson, the relative provisions in the laws of both countries are against the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which provides for free movement of CARICOM nationals within the region.

“As long as they remain on the statue books there is the continued threat of denial of entry and prosecution,” Tomlinson attorney, Trinidadian Douglas Mendes SC submitted at the start of a two-day hearing of Jamaican’s legal challenge, at the CCJ in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

He testified via video link from Jamaica that despite claims by authorities of that country that laws preventing homosexuals entry are not often enforced, if he was to enter a country with such a ban, he would be constrained as an attorney to declare his sexuality and risk prosecution.

“I don’t travel to a country that has a ban on homosexual entry,” Tomlinson said.

Tomlinson, who is in a same sex marriage with a Canadian pastor, is seeking relief from the CCJ for the breaches of right to freedom of movement and not to be discriminated against by Section 5 of the Immigration Act of Belize and Section 8 of the Immigration Act of Trinidad and Tobago.

T&T acting Chief Immigration Officer Gerry Downes said CARICOM nationals who are homosexual are not barred from entering the country, despite immigration laws to the contrary.

He was giving evidence at the time in the landmark CCJ lawsuit.

“There are practical challenges in identifying a homosexual so we do not enquire as to sexual orientation,” Downes said.

He said since the existence of the policy decades ago there were no known cases in Trinidad and Tobago’s post-independence history where entry was denied to a visitor based on his or sexual orientation. The CCJ will give its ruling on a date to be announced.

Updated 4:32 pm, April 20, 2015
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