Cuba begins public consultation on marriage equality law
Cuban leaders have launched a series of neighborhood meetings across the island to debate a measure that would legalize same-sex marriage and adoption.
The planned 78,000 meetings, which officially began in early February but are only now happening in practice, have been convened by Cuba’s parliament to discuss the content of a proposal and collect public comments by the end of April.
This will be used to draft a final version which will be submitted to a public referendum on a date yet to be determined.
Although there is no debate at the meetings – comments can be expressed in writing or verbally, without argument or a vote – the measure and others like it have generated unusually strong discussion in society as a whole.
While gay rights are the most debated part of the proposed law, its more than 400 articles cover all sorts of family matters, including the rights of grandparents and grandchildren, the protection of the elderly, the repression of gender-based violence and how the law deals with marriage and parental responsibility.
This would give children progressively greater rights as they grow.
Such broad consultation on pending legislation is rare in Cuba, although a similar process preceded the adoption of the country’s new constitution in 2019.
About 200 people attended a meeting outside a house in Havana attended by The Associated Press. The national anthem was sung, the Cuban flag unfurled.
Heidi Sanchez, a practical nurse, said she liked the change “because it includes everyone in the world: children, the elderly, people of the same sex.
“We are all human beings and Cubans. I don’t see anything out of the ordinary.”
Rosmery Rivera, a 29-year-old housewife, said she was fundamentally in favor of same-sex marriage, “as long as they preserve their privacy”.
She said she would rather not have gay neighbors because “it looks ugly”, especially “when there are kids”.
One of the main supporters of the measure is Mariela Castro, director of the National Center for Sexual Education and promoter of the rights of same-sex couples, in addition to being the daughter of former president and revolutionary leader Raul Castro.
“It gives me great hope that despite the difficulty and contradiction of the processes of social transformation … we have reached this moment of such an advanced, revolutionary (family) code,” he said. she recently told reporters.
But beyond the revolutionary government, there is a strong strain of social conservatism in Cuba, where evangelical churches have flourished.
“There are very dangerous aspects that go against the Cuban family,” the Methodist Church of Cuba warned in a statement urging members to take this message to their communities.
In addition to equality clauses in marriage, he feared that changes in the status of parents and children would weaken the family.