The campaign — known as “We Also Love” or “Nosotros También Amamos” in Spanish — that will last six months encourages Cubans to sign a petition in support of the issue.
The advocates who work independently of Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro who publicly spearheads LGBT-specific issues on the Communist island, hope to present the petition with signatures to members of the Cuban Parliament. They also told the Washington Blade they would like to work with the National Center for Sexual Education, the group known by the Spanish acronym CENESEX that Mariela Castro directs.
“Now is the time to talk about marriage in Cuba,” Navid Fernández Cabrera, a Havana-based advocate who is one of those spearheading the campaign, told the Blade late last week.
Fernández told the Blade the campaign’s official launch in Havana took place on Dec. 1 at a nightclub that LGBT Cubans frequent.
Advocacy groups in the provinces of Pinar del Río, Artemisa, Villa Clara and Santiago de Cuba in recent weeks have also held campaign launch events in their respective regions. The Cuban Foundation for LGBTI Rights on Dec. 26 will hold what Nelson Gandulla Díaz, the group’s president, described as an “open-air gala” in the city of Cienfuegos with drag queens and art.
“The entire campaign will be explained,” Gandulla told the Blade on Monday in an email. “From there we will begin the work over the next months.”
The Cuban constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Pastors from the U.S. and Canada in May blessed the relationships of 20 Cuban same-sex couples during a CENESEX-sponsored march in Havana that commemorated the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
Mariela Castro publicly supports marriage rights for same-sex couples.
She pointed out in 2013 during the annual Equality Forum in Philadelphia that her mother, Vilma Espín, who directed CENESEX until she passed away in 2007, in the 1990s proposed an amendment to Cuba’s family code that would have defined marriage as a union between two people, regardless of their gender.
Reuters in May reported that Mariela Castro said her father backs her advocacy in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples. She noted during the 2013 Equality Forum that Cuban religious leaders are among those on the island who have questioned and even criticized her position on the issue.
“Same-sex couples should have the same rights,” said Mariela Castro.
Same-sex couples yearn to ‘have the same rights’ in Cuba
Advocates who are behind the marriage campaign are frequent critics of Mariela Castro and CENESEX. They contend that she and her organization have not done enough in support of nuptials for gays and lesbians on the island.
“It (CENESEX) only maintains a facade of saying to the world that on the one hand they are offering solutions; and here we don’t have situations of sexual discrimination, mistreatment and abuses,” Mariano López Borell, an advocate from Havana’s San Miguel del Padrón neighborhood who is among the campaign’s organizers, told the Blade over the weekend. “When a situation presents itself and it requires something to be done to resolve it in a way that affects many people, they never have solutions or answers.”
Neither Mariela Castro nor CENESEX responded to the Blade’s requests for comments. Emails to representatives of the Cuban government in Havana and D.C. also went unanswered.
Gandulla did not provide the Blade with the number of people who have signed the petition since the campaign’s launch.
He stressed that he and other advocates would like to meet with Mariela Castro and other representatives of the Cuban government to discuss the campaign.
“The campaign is an impulse of the yearning of the community to have the same rights,” said Gandulla.
The advocates have launched the campaign roughly a year after the U.S. announced it would restore diplomatic relations with Cuba that had been severed since 1961.
Gay men were among the more than 25,000 people who were sent to labor camps in the years after Fidel Castro topped then-President Fulgencio Batista in the Cuban Revolution.
Cuba in 1979 repealed its sodomy law.
The country in 2008 began offering free sex-reassignment surgery under its national health care system, but independent advocates maintain only a few dozen transgender Cubans have been able to undergo the procedure. Fidel Castro during a 2010 interview with a Mexican newspaper said the decision to send gay men to the labor camps was a “great injustice.”