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Cuba Legalizes Same Sex Marriage

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Courtesy of NatalieMaynor (Flickr CC0)

Same-sex marriage in Cuba has been legalized after people in Cuba voted for a family code, which gave more protections for minorities located on the island, announced on Monday by the country’s National Electoral Council.

Preliminary results showed that around 74% of the 8.4 million permitted Cubans took part in the vote.

Close to 74% of those permitted to vote in Sunday’s national referendum had turned out to cast their ballot, the Electoral Council said. About 94% of the votes counted as of 9 a.m. ET on Monday morning, 3,936,790 had voted in favor and 1,950,090 against – signaling overwhelming support for the new law. Greater security for women, children, and the elderly is provided under the new family code, which also permits marriage and adoption for LGBTQ couples.

On the communist-run island for many years, LGBTQ people in Cuba experienced official discrimination. After Fidel Castro came into power in the early 1960s, many LGBTQ people were interned in government work camps alongside political dissidents. Despite the fact that homosexuality was made legal in Cuba in 1979, many gay men and women claim that they are still subjected to outright prejudice.

Raul Castro’s daughter Mariela has publicly pushed for increased rights for gay people, lesbian people, and transgender individuals through a government-funded facility. However, the Cuban government’s internal and external critics were fierce in their opposition to the movement for more equality.

Due to concerns that a homophobic backlash might reduce voter turnout for a referendum to ratify a new constitution, Cuban legislators abandoned provisions that would have legalized same-sex marriage in 2018. The following year, Cuban authorities dispersed a tranquil LGBTQ rights procession on the grounds that the demonstrators lacked the authorization to hold the event.

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Courtesy of Les Chatfield (Flickr CC0)

In particular, Cuba’s expanding evangelical population has actively argued against implementing the family code. The Cuban government, however, made a full court push in support of the new family code across state-run media in the weeks leading up to the referendum, arguing that the new code is evidence the island’s now more than six-decade-old revolution is capable of adjusting to the times.

In December, the Rainbow Hotel, dubbed the first LGBTQ hotel in Cuba, reopened.

While visitors delight in the five-star service besides the pool or a stroll along the white dunes, LGBTQ people have not always been welcomed in Cuba. Homosexual men and women were detained in labor camps during the early years of communist leader Fidel Castro’s administration for purported “re-education.”

Naturally, attitudes on the island have much changed since those gloomy times. The Rainbow Hotel, according to the Cuban government and MGM Muthu Hotels, which built it, is an example of this shift in perspective.

The Rainbow Hotel, a joint venture between Muthu Hotels and Gaviota, Cuba’s military-run travel agency, was added to the US government’s list of sanctioned organizations in Cuba even before it opened in 2019.

After the coronavirus pandemic, it was abandoned and underused for the following two years. But now, travelers are coming. Kevin McGarth from Toronto calls the hotel “an oasis in the Caribbean” and adds it’s good to be able to be in a location where you feel comfortable and encouraged to be the true person that they are meant to be.

They signed a waiver when they arrived that stated that being tolerant of others is required here or the person would be asked to leave.

Tolerance, however, has recently been conspicuously missing in Cuba outside the hotel’s boundaries.

The administration has cracked down on all forms of dissent in the wake of island-wide anti government protests in July. The state has sought decades-long prison sentences for some defendants, including kids, in large-scale trials of detainees that have taken place behind closed doors.

A second protest in November was prevented from starting by a heavy police and state security presence on the streets. Yunior Garca, one of the organizers, was compelled to remain inside his house, where he couldn’t even signal from before regime supporters draped the structure with a massive Cuban flag.

Written By Lance Santoyo

Sources:

CNN: Cuba legalizes same-sex marriage in historic referendum

BBC: Cuba Family Code: Country votes to legalise same-sex marriage

BBC: Cuba’s first gay hotel reopens as human rights deteriorate

CBS News: Cuba approves same-sex marriage in historic referendum: “Justice has been done”

Featured Image Courtesy of NatalieMaynor Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

Inset Image Courtesy of Les Chatfield Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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