The LGBT Flag Flies Atop the U.S. Embassy in Belmopan



Today, the U.S. Embassy raised the rainbow flag in Belmopan in commemoration of gay Pride Month in the U.S., but also to put the spotlight on Belize’s L.G.B.T.I. community. While locally, the L.G.B.T.I. persons observe Pride Week in August, the U.S. Embassy invited members of the community to share in the celebration and to echo the call for the rights and inclusion of this often discriminated group. News Five’s Andrea Polanco was in Belmopan today for the flag raising ceremony.



Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The rainbow flag, a universal symbol of gay pride, was raised today outside the U.S Embassy in Belmopan. For the LGBTI Community, this raising of the flag while only symbolic represents a part of the changing tides, albeit slow in coming to Belize.




DERRICIA CASTILLO-SALAZAR

Derricia Castillo-Salazar, LGBTI Activist

“Those who have followed the annual flag raising that we are attending today, will know that in 2016 there was a small but determined crowd of protesters right across the street, who, as you can see, are not out there today. With all that being said and done, on a day like this? Where are those protestors? I will tell you where they are. They are at the same place the LGBT Community has now harbored and claimed. They are the intersection of reality and belonging.”



This is the third consecutive year that the LGBTI flag flies outside the U.S Embassy in Belmopan. As the Chargé d’ Affaires explains, it is about celebrating the rights and empowerment of this diverse and contributing community.




ADRIENNE GALANEK

Adrienne Galanek, Chargé d’ Affaires, U.S. Embassy

“So, the U.S. Embassy, it is important to us to celebrate LGBTI rights as human rights around the world, so every embassy around the world is celebrating the rights of LGBTI Community and the contributions that they make across the board. For us, you know that our goals, in partnership with the Government and People of Belize, are working in citizen security, economic prosperity and good governance. And LGBTI rights crosscut all of those goals.”



But LGBTI persons in Belize are still yet fighting for all their rights to be recognized – and they have been working to stomp out the exclusion and discrimination perpetuated by society’s norms and laws that criminalize their sexual orientations or gender identities. And as Salazar explains, they are in it for the long haul to see change in Belize.



Derricia Castillo-Salazar

“We are aware that our relationships are still not legally recognized, however, we are also aware that changes exist that allows us to protect ourselves and our families. We are aware that violations being done against LGBT persons in Belize are rarely recorded. However, we have adopted regional practices to gather, document and disseminate these information. We have come a far way and there is definitely not an end to the road of belonging or to the road of actually being where is today. The road isn’t expected to be smoother. The road isn’t expected to be shorter. The battle isn’t expected to be finished but it definitely isn’t an uphill battle anymore. We are finally at point where we are on a level playing field where LGBT persons are productive and are being represented as productive persons within the Belizean society. We are ready to continue this journey towards inclusion.”



And to build that capacity, over the years, the US Government, through its embassy, provided tremendous support to the LGBTI Community.



Adrienne Galanek

“We have supported members of the LGBTI Community through our International Visitors Leadership Program to sending different advocates for the LGBTI Community to the United States to learn and partner with different organizations in the United States and to share Belize’s perspective. We have also had the Young Leaders of the Americas where members of the LGBTI Community participate in those exchanges and then also do a reverse exchange where advocates for the LGBTI Community have come and shared the different perspectives from the U.S with the LGBTI Community here.”



Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.