A law in Belize criminalizing same-sex intimacy was ruled unconstitutional on Wednesday by the country's Supreme Court.
The challenge to Section 53 of the Belize Criminal Code, which banned "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" and disproportionately affected gay men, was brought by Caleb Orozco, who leads LGBTQ rights group United Belize Advocacy Movement.
“This is the first day of my life in which it is legal for me to be me," Orozco said in a statement. "This is a history-making judgment for Belize, the country which I am proud to call home."
Orozco also had praise for the Central American country's judicial system, which he called "robust and unprejudiced."
"In striking down Section 53, Belize has also rejected a poisonous remnant of colonial rule," he added. "We have reaffirmed ourselves as a society built on dignity and respect for all our people."
Téa Braun, legal director of Human Dignity Trust, a charity that worked alongside Orozco and his legal team, called Orozco a "hero and a trailblazer" and said Wednesday's ruling was "a great victory for human rights and the rule of law."
"Intimacy in private between two adults of their own free will should not be a matter for the law," Braun added. "The only outcome of such laws is to blight the lives of members of the LGBT community by fostering a climate of oppression and state-sponsored discrimination."
While Wednesday's decision was welcome news for LGBTQ people and their allies in Belize, there are still 76 countries that make same-sex intimacy between consenting adults a crime.