Cuba begins public consultation on marriage equality law
Cuba’s leaders have launched a series of neighbourhood meetings across the island to debate a measure that would legalise same-sex marriage and adoption.
The planned 78,000 meetings, which officially began at the start of February but are only now being seen in practice, were called by Cuba’s parliament to discuss the content of a proposal and gather public comment by the end of April.
That will be used to draft a final version to be put to a public referendum at a yet to be determined date.
While there is no debate in the meetings — comments can be expressed in writing or verbally, with no argument or vote — the measure and others like it before have roused an 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 topics, including the rights of grandparents and grandchildren, protection of the elderly, punishment of gender violence and how the law deals with marriage and parental responsibility.
It would give children gradually greater rights as they grow.
Such a vast consultation on pending legislation is rare in Cuba though a similar process preceded adoption of the country’s new constitution in 2019.
About 200 people attended a meeting in front of a house in Havana witnessed by The Associated Press. The National Anthem was sung, the Cuban flag displayed.
Heidi Sanchez, a nursing assistant, said she like 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 abnormal.”
Rosmery Rivera, a 29-year-old housewife, said she was basically in favour of same-sex marriage, “as long as they maintain their privacy”.
She said she would prefer not to have gay neighbours, though, because “it looks ugly”, especially “when there are children”.
It gives me much hope that in spite of how difficult and contradictory the processes of social transformation have been ... we have reached this moment of a (family) code so advanced, so revolutionary
A prime supporter of the measure is Mariela Castro, director of the National Centre for Sex Education and a promoter of rights for same-sex couples, as well as being daughter of the former president and revolutionary leader Raul Castro.
“It gives me much hope that in spite of how difficult and contradictory the processes of social transformation have been … we have reached this moment of a (family) code so advanced, so revolutionary,” she told reporters recently.
But beyond the revolutionary government, there is a strong strain of social conservatism in Cuba, where evangelical churches have been growing.
“There are very dangerous aspects that go against the Cuban family,” the Methodist Church in Cuba warned in a statement urging members to bring that message to their communities.
In addition to marriage equality clauses, it was worried that changes to the status of parents and children could weaken the family.
The best videos delivered daily
Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox