Cuban President becomes the first communist leader to back marriage equality

Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel

Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel during a state visit to Venezuela in 2018. Shutterstock

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel has announced his support for “marriage between people without any restrictions” as the country prepares for a new constitution. The revised document would include marriage equality.

The Cuban leader took over power from Raúl Castro in April. In an interview with TV Telsur, he said recognizing same-sex marriages was “part of eliminating any type of discrimination in society.”

Fidel Castro was responsible for the persecution of homosexuals where LGBTQ individuals were sent to concentration camps after the country’s 1959 communist revolution. Gay men were forced into labor camps, as Castro saw homosexuality as a sign of capitalist decadence. He later apologized for the country’s persecution of gay men in 2010.

Related: Cuba may legalize marriage equality. That doesn’t mean it’s a gay paradise.

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.

But at least one scholar is warning that the move is government-sponsored window dressing meant to obscure the country’s continued control over its citizens.

In an op-ed in the Miami Herald, Cuban author and historian Abel Sierra Madero said that the move toward marriage equality is entirely in line with the country’s ongoing effort of “changing to make sure nothing changes.”

“The approval of same-sex marriage signals one step toward the recognition of individual rights, historically diluted,” Madero writes.

Related: Castro accepts responsibility for Cuba’s persecution of gays

“But in the way that same-sex marriage is portrayed in Cuba, it also becomes an artifact, an instrument designed to avert and then annul a broader democratic discussion, not limited to the specific field of sexuality. It appears it will become another space for controlled diversity, created for public-relations purposes in the post-revolution era.”

Madero notes that the push for great acceptance of LGBTQ people in Cuba has been driven by the National Sex Education Center (CENESEX), which is led by Mariela Castro Espín, the daughter of former President Raúl Castro. He charges that the effort is merely an attempt to tidy up the Castro regime’s long history of oppression.

The proposed constitution has already passed the National Assembly. After a period of public input, it will need to be approved at a public referendum tentatively scheduled for February 2019.

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