On Sunday, Cuba’s National Assembly signed off on a new constitution that defines marriage as “the consensual union of two people, regardless of gender.” The new constitution will be put to a referendum later this year.
The move would represent a sea-change in the communist country.
In the 60’s, gay men were forced into labor camps, as Fidel Castro saw homosexuality as a sign of capitalist decadence. Castro apologized for the country’s persecution of gay men in 2010.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in the 1990s. The country also includes LGBT people in nondiscrimination laws and offers transgender people free health care to enable transition.
Pablo Navarro, 70, spent two years at a labor camp in the 60’s to “correct” his sexuality.
“This is marvelous,” Navarro said about the new constitution. “I feel proud that the new generation can enjoy this achievement even though we couldn’t.”
The National Assembly unanimously voted in favor of the constitution, which recognizes private property rights for the first time. The current Cuban constitution was passed in 1976.
While many of the details of the legal status of same-sex unions have not been addressed – the largest being adoption – legal experts believe that the new constitution will lead to formal equal rights for same-sex partners.
But the wording did not come without a fight. Evangelical Christians led a fight against marriage equality. Protestors posted signs that said, “I’m in favor of the original design – the family as God created it.”
And last week, Methodists protested against the new constitution.
“The ideology of gender has no relation with our culture, our struggles, or with the historic leaders of the Revolution,” said a letter signed by leaders of several evangelical denominations in June.
Many, though, were satisfied with the inclusion of marriage equality in the constitution.
“The possibility of marriage between two people strengthens our project’s principles of equality and justice,” said Secretary of the Council of State Homero Acosta.