Metro Weekly

Cuba Could Expand LGBTQ Rights in September Referendum

Cuban residents will vote on whether to update the country's Family Codes to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption.

The National Capitol Building in Havana, Cuba – Photo: Marc-Lautenbacher, via Wikimedia.

The Cuban government has opened a path towards expanding the rights of LGBTQ citizens in the Communist nation.

On Friday, the country’s National Assembly approved a slate of updates to its Family Codes that will, among other things, legalize same-sex marriage and allow same-sex couples to adopt children. The fate of these Family Code updates, however, is ultimately in the hands of the Cuban people, who will determine whether to approve the changes in a Sept. 25 referendum, reports Al Jazeera.

The changes to the Family Codes will not only legalize same-sex marriage and adoption, but promote equal sharing of domestic responsibilities, and allow same-sex couples to enter into prenuptial agreements and pursue surrogacy when trying to form families.

For the past several months, Cuban government officials have been attempting to provide more information on the updates and generate support for them through a lengthy series of public town hall meetings, reports NBC News. Typically, these kinds of processes are extremely effective for the Cuban government, with referendums getting over 80 percent support not an uncommon occurrence.

But according to reporting by Al Jazeera, organizers stated that only 62%  of participants expressed support — an uptick from mid-March, when only 54% of participants had, according to Nbc News.. While this is still a sizable majority of the country, it does show that the family code updates are more controversial amongst Cubans than most referendums — in part due to opposition from conservative elements within society, including the Cuban Roman Catholic Church and other religious entities.

One Methodist pastor told Al Jazeera that these family code updates go “against what has been taught for many generations of years throughout the world about the true traditional marriage that is between a man and a woman.”

Despite religious opposition, the referendum appears to enjoy a large base of support, and officials within the government are hopeful that it will pass.

Back when the government was in the midst of its drive to garner support for the referendum, Mariela Castro, the daughter of Raul Castro and niece to the deceased Fidel Castro, the former revolutionary hero and longtime leader of Cuba, told NBC News that she believed the Family Code updates would be “revolutionary” and that Cubans would end up supporting the proposed changes.

“Anything new always brings with it uncertainty,” she said.

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