Cuba approves marriage equality, adoption rights

Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban president Raúl Castro, votes on September 25.

Voters in Cuba overwhelmingly approved a wide-ranging family code bolstering LGBTQ rights, including same-sex marriage and adoption rights, in a referendum that concluded a years-long fight to incorporate LGBTQ rights into the law amid the approval of the nation’s new constitution in 2019.

The new law, which replaces the nation’s 1975 family code, also allows LGBTQ people t0 have surrogate pregnancies. According to multiple news reports, it further establishes new policies against gender-based violence and calls on couples to share household chores and give children more say in family matters. Multiple news reports said rights for elderly people were also included in the new law.

According to state-run media in Cuba, 66.87% of voters approved the new package of laws, though the vote breakdown could not be independently verified as of September 27. President Miguel Díaz-Canel backed the measure and the government used billboards, rallies, and the media to encourage voters to vote for it, according to the Washington Post.

The president issued a written statement celebrating the results of the referendum, saying generations of Cuban people have been waiting for the law for years.

“Starting today, we will be a better nation,” he wrote.

The lopsided vote total represented a departure from the political environment in 2018 and 2019 when advocates unsuccessfully sought to include marriage rights in the new constitution. At the time, religious groups stymied momentum for such changes and the government cracked down on demonstrations, forcing advocates to delay progress.

This time around, the nation’s Catholic leaders and other Christian groups were again opposed to the LGBTQ rights proposal. But they were outnumbered.

Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban president Raúl Castro, serves as the director of the National Center for Sex Education and has been a key LGBTQ rights advocate — even before the political turbulence of 2018, though at the time she denounced protesters who were arrested after moving ahead with an unpermitted Pride March, calling it a “show” that was “backed by officials of the US Embassy and covered by the foreign press.”

Still, she offered strong praise for the referendum’s passage and thanked the people of Cuba for their support.

Earlier in the year, folks were able to voice their opinions about the legislation at numerous community meetings held across the country. Cuba’s National Assembly approved the new family code in July ahead of the September referendum.