Cuba on Wednesday published a long-awaited draft of a new family code that would open the door to gay marriage if approved, in a move that LGBT rights advocates applauded cautiously, as they remained wary of whether it would actually be implemented.
The new code defines marriage as the “voluntary union of two people” without specifying gender, as opposed to the current definition as the “union of a man and woman.”
The draft still needs to go to a grassroots debate, and would then be amended to take into account citizens’ opinions before going to a referendum. Advocates fear the commission charged with it could relent under pushback from religious groups and those who prefer traditional machismo culture.
They say the government should not have stipulated a referendum on what are fundamental human rights. The government says it wants to build rather than force acceptance of change.
“We consider this version to be consistent with the constitutional text, and develop and update the various legal-family institutions in correspondence with the humanistic nature of our social process,” Cuban Minister of Justice Oscar Silveira Martinez said in announcing the draft.
Martinez and Yamila Gonzalez Ferrer, vice president of the National Union of Jurists of Cuba, said that the proposed family code is much broader than an authorization of same-sex marriage.
“It protects all expressions of family diversity and the right of each person to establish a family in coherence with the constitutional principles of plurality, inclusion and human dignity,” Gonzalez Ferrer said.
In 2018, the government decided to withdraw an amendment to Cuba’s new constitution that would have opened the door to same-sex unions after campaigning by evangelical churches.
“The blueprint for the family code is everything one could have hoped for,” said Maykel Gonzalez Vivero, director of Tremenda Nota, a digital magazine that focuses on women, and the LGBT and black communities.
“It took a long time and there was no transparency in its interminable process of nearly 15 years, but it’s there,” he said.
Cuba, which sent gay people to correctional labor camps in the early years after its 1959 leftist revolution, made considerable advances in LGBT rights in the 2000s and 2010s, despite the widespread persistence of machismo.
The island nation introduced the right to free sex reassignment surgery, banned workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and started holding annual marches against homophobia — Cuba’s equivalent of gay pride.
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