Cuba’s president backs same-sex marriage

President Miguel Diaz-Canel

Cuba’s president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, has confirmed that he is in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in Cuba’s new constitution.

“We’ve been going through a massive thought evolution and many taboos have been broken,” stated Diaz-Canel in an interview with the Telesur TV network.

He said he supports marriage “without any restrictions” and that Cuba shouldn’t “give way to any kind of discrimination”.

Marriage is defined as only being possible between “a man and a woman” in Cuba’s current Constitution and in its Family Code.

The country, however, is in the midst of amending the constitution, which would allow same-sex unions if the changes are approved. The proposed new constitution states that marriage is simply a “union between two people”.

The revised constitution was passed by parliament in July but is now undergoing a public consultation process. It will then be put to a vote for final approval in a national referendum in February next year. Unusually, there has been widespread public campaigning for and against marriage equality in the country.

Cuba has a dark history when it comes to LGBTQ rights. In the 1960s, LGBTQ people were persecuted after the revolution, including being forced into labour camps to “correct” their “deviations”. Homosexuality was finally decriminalised in 1979 and LGBTQ people are now protected from discrimination in employment and in the provision of services.

Many of the advances in LGBTQ rights in Cuba, including the move to legalise same-sex marriage, have been championed by lawmaker and activist Mariela Castro. She is the daughter of former president Raúl Castro and the niece of the late Fidel Castro. In 2005, she proposed allowing transgender people to receive free sex reassignment surgery and to change their legal gender, which became law in 2008.

Fidel Castro in 2010 expressed regret for the post-revolution crackdown on LGBTQ people while he was on power, calling it “a great injustice, great injustice!” He said: “If anyone is responsible, it’s me…. We had so many and such terrible problems, problems of life or death. In those moments, I was not able to deal with that matter [of homosexuals].”

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