Tuesday, March 21, 2023

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Cuba Approves Same-Sex Marriage and Adoption in Historic Referendum

Two women getting married || Pexels.

The Cuban people voted in favor of same-sex couples marrying and adopting children in a recent referendum. The result is an enormous triumph for a country that once sent homosexual men to labor camps. 

Well over half of the voters (67 percent) were in favor of the change, which is more than those in favor of same-sex marriage in the 2017 Australian plebiscite (61 percent). 

In July 2021, President Miguel Díaz-Canel, the first non-Castro to lead Cuba in over sixty years, cracked down on Cubans protesting his government with slogans supporting the late Fidel Castro. But Díaz-Canel celebrated the win for gay and lesbian rights in a statement, saying “love is now the law.” 

Translated by NY Times, he continued, saying that passing the law was a way to “pay a debt to various generations of Cubans whose domestic plans had been waiting years for this law.”

“As of today,” he added, “we will be a better nation.”

Some critics believe Díaz-Canel’s support for the law change is a way to appear progressive in the face of residents’ growing discontent with their government. Especially since Cuba has been dealing with its worst financial crisis since the 1990s.

“This has been a way for him to say, ‘Look, you know, we’re not so repressive,’” Alberto R. Coll, a law professor at DePaul University with a special interest in U.S. relations with Cuba, said.

While the public overwhelmingly voted in support of same-sex marriage and adoption, it did not receive the usual near-consensus typical of government-backed proposals in the country. 

This is largely due to a “growing evangelical movement in Cuba, as well as an entrenched machismo tradition,” according to Coll. The Roman Catholic church also vocally opposed the referendum. 

Coll believes that the law ultimately was passed because Cuban residents believe that “these are matters that the law should not regulate strictly,” and that its time was past overdue. 

The referendum also expands protections for children, women and the elderly. The law discourages violence against women and encourages heterosexual couples to share the housework load. But it unfortunately also allows for surrogate pregnancies: coercing women to go through a life-threatening 9-month process of renting their womb out for money.

The referendum brings up the ethical questions that surround putting homosexual rights to a public vote, which can feel like an act of dehumanization. 

Juan Pappier and Cristian González Cabrera of the Human Rights Watch wrote in a column that the Cuban government “rarely consults its people,” and that the “political pageantry of putting individual rights, including the right of gay and lesbian couples to be free from discrimination, to a popularity vote,” is “troubling.”

Read the full article here

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