July 21, 2018 at 2:17 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
New Cuba constitution could allow same-sex marriage

Plaza de la Revolución, Havana, Cuba, Ché Guevara, gay news, Washington Blade

A proposed amendment to Cuba’s new constitution would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A proposed amendment to Cuba’s new constitution would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Francisco Rodríguez Cruz, a gay Cuban blogger who writes under the pen name Paquito el de Cuba, on Friday wrote the proposed amendment would “redefine marriage as a voluntary union into which two people who are legally eligible can enter.” Rodríguez reported the proposed amendment also “incorporates the principle of nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Maykel González, an independent Cuban journalist and LGBTI rights advocate who contributes to the Washington Blade, also confirmed the proposed amendment.

Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro who directs the country’s National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX), in May told reporters during a Havana press conference that her organization planned to submit proposals to the Cuban National Assembly in support of marriage and other rights for LGBTI Cubans. Her comments came against the backdrop of pro-marriage equality campaigns that several independent LGBTI advocacy groups had previously launched.

Moisés Rodríguez of Corriente Martiana, a Cuban human rights organization told the Blade on May 11 during an interview at his home in Cabañas in Artemisa Province that everyone knows “the damages caused by the lack of marriage equality.” Lidia Romero of Acepto, a group that also supports marriage rights for same-sex couples, made a similar point when she spoke with the Blade later that day in Havana.

“Everyone talks about the need for the recognition of or the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples,” she said.

Five Evangelical church groups last month publicly expressed their opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples.

The Cuban government denied their request to hold a march in Havana. Pictures posted to social media earlier this month show supporters of these groups holding signs during church services that read, among other things, “I am in favor of original design: The family as God created” with a picture of a man and a woman and two children holding hands.

The debate over marriage rights for same-sex couples in Cuba is taking place nearly six decades after gay men and others deemed unfit for military service were sent to labor camps, known by the Spanish acronym UMAP, following the 1959 revolution that brought Mariela Castro’s uncle, Fidel Castro, to power.

The Cuban government until 1993 forcibly quarantined people with HIV/AIDS in state-run sanitaria. Fidel Castro in 2010 apologized for the work camps during an interview with a Mexican newspaper.

Cuba since 2008 has offered free sex-reassignment surgeries through its national health care system, although only a few dozen people have been able to receive them. Mariela Castro, who is a member of the National Assembly, and CENESEX since that year have organized a series of events across the country each year that commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

A three-judge panel in Havana last October granted Violeta Cardoso custody of her late daughter’s three young children who she is raising with her partner of 32 years, Isabel Pacheco. The ruling is believed to be the first time the Cuban government has legally recognized a same-sex couple.

“There was no problem,” Cardoso told the Blade in Havana on May 11.

The National Assembly will debate the proposed amendment and other changes to the Cuban constitution three months after President Miguel Díaz-Canel succeeded Raúl Castro. Cuba would become the first country in the Caribbean to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples if the proposed amendment becomes part of the new constitution.

Violeta Cardoso, second from right, and her partner, Isabel Pacheco, second from left, attend an International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia march in Havana on May 12, 2018, that the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) organized. Cardoso last October received custody of her late daughter’s three children who she is raising with her partner. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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