Cuba holds unusual vote on law allowing same-sex marriage – Caribbean Life


HAVANA (AP) — Cuba held a rare referendum on Sunday on an unusually controversial law — a government-backed “family law” code that would allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt, as well as to define the rights of children and grandparents.

Cuba holds parliamentary elections every two years, although no parties other than the communist are allowed, but it has rarely held referenda on specific laws.

And rarely has an officially backed measure met with as much open criticism as the more than 400-article family law, which has been questioned by many in the island’s increasingly vocal evangelical community.

The sweeping code would also allow surrogate pregnancies, broader rights for grandparents in relation to grandchildren, protections for the elderly and measures against gender-based violence.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who promoted the law, acknowledged the resistance when he voted on Sunday.

“Most of our fellow citizens will vote for the code, but there are still issues that our society as a whole doesn’t understand,” he said.

Sixty-four-year-old market vendor Miguel Alberto Galindo said he voted for the measure: “It’s time for gay people to have the same rights as everyone else,” he said.

But Alejandro Rodríguez, a 33-year-old hardware store worker, said he voted against the measure, saying, “Some things in the code are good but some things are bad.” He said he disagreed with giving same-sex couples the same rights as “normal” families.

The measure was approved by Cuba’s parliament, the National Assembly, following thousands of government briefings this year in neighborhoods across the country.

One of the main supporters of the measure is Mariela Castro, director of the National Center for Sex Education, promoter of the rights of same-sex couples, daughter of former President Raul Castro and niece of his brother Fidel.

But there is a strong trend of social conservatism in Cuba, where evangelical churches have flourished. Several religious leaders have expressed concern or opposition to the law, fearing it will weaken nuclear families.

While Cuba was officially – and often militantly – atheist for decades after the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro – Raul’s brother – it has become more tolerant of religions over the past quarter century. This meant greater openness not only to the once-dominant Roman Catholic Church, but also to Afro-Cuban religions, Protestants and Muslims.

Some of these churches used the opening in 2018 and 2019 to campaign against another plebiscite that would have rewritten the constitution to allow same-sex marriage.

The opposition was strong enough for the government of the day to back down.

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