March 18, 2019 at 2:59 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
PHOTOS: Snapshots of life in post-referendum Cuba
Cuba photos, gay news, Washington Blade
A rainbow flag tied to the fence outside of Cuba Libro, a privately-owned coffee shop in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, on March 1, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

HAVANA — Cuban voters on Feb. 24 overwhelmingly approved the draft of their country’s new constitution.

The draft originally contained an amendment that would have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples, but the issue sparked a rare public debate in Cuba with evangelical groups highlighting their opposition to the issue. 

The Cuban government in December announced the amendment had been removed from the draft constitution. Activists who work independently of Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro who spearheads LGBTI-specific issues on the Communist island, are among those who sharply criticized the decision.

Cuba’s National Office of Statistics and Education on Feb. 15 released the results of a survey that found 77 percent of respondents said same-sex couples should receive the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba, subsequently reported Mariela Castro and Luis Ángel Adán Roble, a member of the Cuban National Assembly who advocates for LGBTI issues, knew about the survey results before they were released publicly. The Cuban government on the eve of the referendum blocked access to the websites of Tremenda Nota and other independent Cuban media outlets on the island.

The Blade was in Havana and in Villa Clara province from Feb. 28-March 4.

Cars from the 1950s, such as this one leaving Havana’s José Martí International Airport on Feb. 28, 2019, are commonly used as taxis throughout Cuba. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A poster nailed to the door of an apartment building in Havana’s Centro Habana neighborhood on Feb. 28, 2019, indicates support for the country’s new constitution that voters approved four days earlier. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A woman and girl sit on Havana’s seawall on Feb. 28, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
ETECSA, Cuba’s state-run telecommunications company, provides a link to the country’s new constitution to Internet users when they log onto public Wi-Fi hotspots across the island. (Screen capture)
A lampshade with a picture of former President Obama was part of the decor at Michifú, a gay-owned private restaurant in Havana’s Centro Habana neighborhood on Feb. 28, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
The Cuban government has blocked access to Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba. (Screen capture)
A male peacock stands in the terrace of the Hotel Nacional in Havana on March 1, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A flyer in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples tied to the fence outside of Cuba Libro, a privately-owned coffee shop in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, on March 1, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A map pinned to the fence outside of Cuba Libro, a privately-owned coffee shop in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, shows the areas of the Cuban capital that a freak Category F4 tornado devastated on Jan. 27, 2019. Media reports indicate the tornado killed four people and injured more than 200 others. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Cuba Libro, a privately-owned coffee shop in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, has caricatures in its bathroom that ridicule President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A paper sign stapled onto the side of a building in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood on March 1, 2019, notes the location of a polling place. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A poster inside Nazdarovie, a Soviet restaurant in Havana’s Centro Habana neighborhood, notes the close ties that existed between Cuba and the Soviet Union before its collapse in 1991. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Bike rentals on a street in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood on March 2, 2019 (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A sign taped to a home in Santa Clara, Cuba, on March 3, 2019, indicates the location of a polling place. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A poster inside El Mejunje, an LGBTI-friendly cultural center in Santa Clara, Cuba, indicates support for marriage rights for same-sex couples in the country’s new constitution. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Cubans attend Mass at a Roman Catholic Church in Santa Clara, Cuba, on March 3, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A Seventh-day Adventist Church in Santa Clara, Cuba, on March 3, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A banner over a street in Sagua la Grande, Cuba, on March 3, 2019, urges residents to participate in the referendum on the country’s new constitution that took place a week earlier. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A banner over a street in Sagua la Grande, Cuba, on March 3, 2019, urges residents to vote for the country’s new constitution “for Fidel.” (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Three drag queens perform at El Mejunje, an LGBTI-friendly cultural center in Santa Clara, Cuba, on March 3, 2019. (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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