Cuban referendum approves same-sex marriage

By Ben Dickison, Staff Writer

In a Sept. 27 referendum, Cuban voters approved same-sex marriage. In addition, same-sex couples are now allowed to adopt children and have children through surrogacy. The referendum passed with approximately two-thirds of Cuban voters supporting, generating international attention. 

In a milestone vote on Sept. 27, Cuba passed a referendum legalizing same-sex marriage across the island. Same-sex couples are now allowed to adopt children and have children through a surrogate.

Approximately two-thirds of Cuban voters, totaling around six million, voted in favor of the new “Family Code.” Although homosexuality in Cuba has been legal since 1979, LGBT+ Cubans have experienced discrimination against to the present day.

Before 1979, during the dictatorial regime of Fidel Castro, whose Communist Party is still in power, LGBT+ Cubans were often sent to labor camps in order to be “re-educated,” as Castro called it.

A significant faction of Cubans are still opposed to same-sex marriage, especially within the growing evangelical Christian population.

Other critics have stated the Cuban government passed the law in order to distract from the energy crisis the state is currently facing. A massive fire at one of Cuba’s key fuel plants has led to an exodus of over 175,000 Cubans this year and placed a massive dent in the country’s tourism industry.

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Cuban President Miguel Diáz Canal was supportive of the referendum and publicly celebrated its passing.

Diáz, whose tenure as president of the Caribbean nation began in 2018, has supported marriage equality since he took office. In 2018, he publicly stated his support for “marriage between people without any restrictions.”

In the same year, marriage equality was set to be codified into law by a new Cuban constitution but was ultimately abandoned by lawmakers, as the relative lack of consensus about marriage equality had the potential to lower public support for the new constitution.

Typical referendums in Cuba are passed with approzimately 90% support, and about 67% of Cuban voters supported the new Family Code.

Diáz stated that the law will assist in paying “a debt to various generations of Cubans whose domestic plans had been waiting years for this long.” On Monday, he took to Twitter to celebrate the code’s passing, writing, “Love is now the law.”

Another prominent Cuban voice in support of the referendum was Mariela Castro, daughter of former president Raul Castro and niece of former president Fidel Castro. Mariela Castro is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education and a champion for LGBT+ rights in Cuba.

Castro voiced much support for the 2018 movement toward marriage equality as a constitutional right. She described the change as “the political will of the state and the government to advance a human rights agenda and extend it to as many areas as possible.”

She went on to describe Cuba as a “society in revolution.”

The advancement of LGBT+ rights in Cuba due to the referendum is reflective of a trend beginning to emerge throughout the world, specifically in Western countries. Since 2000, when the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize samesex marriage, 33 states have codified marriage equality.

Nearly all countries supporting marriage equality are in the West, with the exception of Taiwan, South Africa and New Zealand. In addition Andorra, will legalize samesex marriage in February 2023.