An openly gay Cuban politician has started a campaign to secure equal marriage without having to hold a referendum.
At the moment, Cuba doesn’t allow same-sex marriages. However, it is reviewing the Family Code over the next two years. And it will then put those changes, likely including same-sex marriage, to a referendum.
The politician and LGBT+ campaigner – Luis Ángel Adán Roble – warns that a referendum would expose the LGBT+ community to discrimination.
Therefore he wants politicians and society to discuss marriage equality. But he says the decision should rest in the country’s parliament.
In an appeal on Facebook, he’s asking for at least 50,000 Cubans to sign his petition. It asks for Cuba to consult the public on the new Family Code and then for the National Assembly to decide.
Moreover, he says the public consultation should seek out people in favor of marriage equality, rather than just look for ‘negative arguments and opinions’.
His petition asks the National Assembly of the People’s Power of the Republic of Cuba and the National Electoral Council to agree to his change.
His appeal comes just days after the nearby country of Costa Rica started to wed same-sex couples for the first time.
Most Cubans back same-sex marriage
If Roble does not get his way, Cuba’s jurists will put the new Family Code to the National Assembly by March 2021. Cuba will then consult the public and ratify the code by December of that year. Only after that will a final referendum take place.
Roble has also asked the British, German, Swedish, Belgian and Dutch embassies to be ‘international observers’ of the process.
It has already been a long journey for same-sex marriage in Cuba. The island nation first proposed civil unions in 2007. However, it hasn’t gone forward despite support from Mariela Castro Espin.
Castro Espin – daughter of former President Raul Castro and niece of Cuban revolutionary and former President Fidel Castro – is also a major backer of same-sex marriage.
Moreover, she is not alone. Current President Miguel Díaz-Canel has also backed marriage equality.
And a 2019 poll claimed 63% of Cubans favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, while 37% are opposed.
However, Cuba’s Catholic Church has battled efforts to introduce equal marriage.
And while polling indicates the LGBT+ community would win access to marriage in a referendum, such plebiscites have stirred up homophobia in the past. That was certainly the case in Australia’s postal vote on the issue, as well as in Taiwan and Ireland’s referendums.
Cuba’s tragic LGBT+ past
Today, LGBT+ Cubans have secured some rights and protections. These include the right to change gender, an equal age of consent and anti-discrimination laws.
However, it wasn’t always like that.
After Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, he sent 25,000 gay men deemed unfit for military service to labor camps. He later apologized in 2010 for sending gay men to the work camps.
And until 1993, the Cuban government quarantined people with HIV and AIDS in a state-run sanitaria.