Cuba votes for same-sex marriage in controversial referendum

Published by
Peter Kavinsky

Juan Palop |

Havana, September 21 (EFE) — Cuba is putting the Family Code, a legislative package that includes same-sex marriage and surrogacy, to a referendum this Sunday in an unusual, controversial vote with an uncertain outcome.

The exercise is meant to be the culmination of a years-long process. It began with the drafting of the 2019 Constitution and ended with the approval of the twenty-fifth version of the Family Code in the National Assembly (unicameral parliament) in July this year, after three months of popular consultation and 79,000 meetings with citizens in districts and municipalities. .

The text, which replaces the 1975 ordinance, provides for same-sex marriage and adoption, regulates “solidarity” pregnancy, parental responsibility for their children and care for the elderly, and prohibits marriage and combating gender-based violence.

The Cuban government and all state structures have turned to the yes campaign, including the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and the Supreme Court, with continuous messages for several weeks in the official media and social networks.

Mariela Castro, Director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), talks to Efe in Havana, Cuba. EFE / Yander Zamora

They argue that the code is in line with the current realities of Cuban families, empowering and better protecting minors, the elderly, people with disabilities and vulnerable groups.

Director of the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex) Mariela Castro stressed in statements to Efe that the code is in line with “empowerment” in family law.

“The Family Code promotes, expands and contributes to the broad provision of the rights of all people and all families. This contributes to the further democratization of intergender, intergenerational relations,” he assured.

Arguments for “No”

No, for its part, has not received a well-articulated campaign or presence in the mainstream media. On social media, activists and some institutions and groups called for abstention or rejection of the law.

His opposition is sometimes expressed in the rejection of the content, in particular that homosexuals can marry and adopt. This is the case of the Catholic Church, which recently criticized these points in an Episcopal Conference statement and asked for a “conscientious” vote.

But the rejection is also political. Opponents, dissidents and activists say they will abstain or vote no because they believe that “yes” entails the legitimization of the communist political system, with which they do not agree.

The opposition and former Cuban political prisoner Marta Beatriz Roque explained to Efe that if she could vote – her civil rights were suspended because of the conviction – she would prefer to abstain.

“I am not for yes or no, not for anything, because I know the dictatorship, I know how it works, and I am convinced that at the moment we already know what the outcome of this plebiscite will be,” she says. .

Independent journalist Maria Matienzo also believes that abstention is the best option, as she understands that this referendum is plebiscite in nature and despite belonging to the LGBTIQ community.

“Civil rights are not more important than others. I have no rights as a citizen just because I am allowed to get married,” said Matienso Efe, who missed a “pardon” from the government for the revolution’s homophobic past.

For his part, Cuban independent journalist Maiquel González Vivero explained that he would vote yes because of his years of LGBTIQ activism.

“I will vote yes, despite the fact that I have many criticisms of the government, many objections to this process (…). But since this is the context and we are forced to say yes or no, I have no choice but to say yes. We have been working on these rights for a long time,” he said in an interview with Efe.

Part of the group criticized the fact that minority rights are being put to a referendum when no other law, including the new Penal Code, has gone through the process. Another criticism is that the voting takes place after the publication of the Family Code in the Official Gazette in August this year.

People interviewed by Efe say they will vote no or abstain because of the serious crisis that the country’s leadership is experiencing, which has dragged on for two years of shortages of basic products, long lines, frequent power outages and high inflation.

Polls, abstinence and preparation

Several women with a child hail a taxi on the street four days before a popular referendum on a new Family Code in Havana, Cuba. EFE/ Yander Zamora

However, due to the lack of public polls, it is difficult to assess the strength of each camp before the referendum, the third in Cuba since the victory of the 1959 revolution and the first under one law or another.

Experts are also hesitant to predict the number of abstentions and its possible significance in terms of political misunderstanding or rejection of the process.

CEN ensures that everything is prepared for the proper development of the consultation. More than eight million Cubans are being called to vote in some 24,000 polling stations.

Cubans who have emigrated or gone into exile and are not residing in Cuba – a group estimated to number around two million – are not eligible.

Some NGOs highlighted the doubts raised during this consultation, as in the case of Election Transparency.

Its director Leandro Querido criticized in an interview with Efe that it was a campaign without “guarantees”, that there were no international observers on election day, and that without “cross-checking” the results would be “unverifiable”.

Web Editing: Sebastian Baiona

Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at

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