Cubans to vote on new family law allowing same-sex marriage

By Juan Palop

Havana, Sep 21 (EFE).- Cubans are being asked to vote on a new Family Code that would permit same-sex marriage and surrogate pregnancy while establishing parents’ obligations toward their offspring and creating stiffer penalties for gender violence.

But despite the Communist Party’s monopoly of power, the outcome of what will be only the third referendum since the 1959 Revolution remains in doubt.

The fifth version of the Family Code – last revised in 1975 – is the product of three years of discussions both inside and outside the National Assembly, whose adoption of the text in July was preceded by 79,000 public forums across the island.

Mariela Castro, director of the National Sex Education Center, said the new code represents an “expansion of rights.”

The prospective legislation “contributes to guaranteeing widely the rights of all persons and all families. It contributes to democratizing even more inter-generic, intergenerational relations,” the daughter of former President Raul Castro told Efe.

Given state control of television, radio and the press, one must turn to social media to encounter arguments in favor of voting “no” or abstaining next Sunday.

While Cuba’s Catholic Bishops Conference objects to the new code for its legalization of same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, some dissidents who support the proposal in substance plan to vote “no” or leave their ballots blank as a gesture of protest against the Communist government.

Marta Beatriz Roque, a former political prisoner whose civil rights remain suspended, told Efe that she would boycott the referendum even if she could vote.

Independent journalist Maria Matienzo, a member of the LGBTIQ community, also endorsed abstention as the best option.

When it comes to civil rights, she told Efe, “some are not more important than others. I don’t have rights as a citizen just for the fact that I can marry.”

Matienzo likewise wants the government to offer some kind of apology for the persecution of gay and lesbian people during the 1960s and ’70s.

But fellow independent journalist and LGBTIQ activist Maykel Gonzalez Vivero said that he plans to vote in favor of the Family Code on Sunday.

“I’m going to vote yes, despite having many criticisms of the government, many qualms about this process,” he told Efe. “But as that is the context and we are obliged to say yes or no, for me there is no other option but to say yes. We have been working for these rights for a long time.”

Other people who spoke to Efe off the record said they will vote against the Family Code or abstain out of unhappiness with the current situation in Cuba, marked by inflation, shortages of basic goods and frequent power outages.

In the absence of polling, nobody is willing to venture any predictions about the level of participation, let alone the result.

More than 8 million Cubans are eligible to cast ballots. EFE jpm/dr

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