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Religious Tolerance logo


Cuba's acceptance of the LGBT
community. Movement towards
same-sex marriages in Cuba:

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Past treatment of the LGBT community in Cuba:

Between 1965 and 1968 under the Castro regime in Cuba, forced labor camps -- called Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP) -- were established to reeducate people considered to be anti-government. This included criminals, political and religious dissidents, lesbians, and gays. About 800 members of the LGBTQ community are believed to have been sent to the camps.

Historian Abel Sierra Madero said that the government has:

"... always tried to make it seem that what happened at the UMAPs was a mistake, and Fidel Castro avoided taking responsibility by saying he was very busy governing and didn’t know what was happening there. But they were not an isolated mistake. The UMAPs were a systemic phenomenon of the revolution."

Emilio Izquierdo is the Director of UMAP Miami. His organization educates the public about the atrocities in the UMAP camps. He said that treatment of inmates at the centers was a:

"... crime against humanity. ... [homosexual prisoners were] separated ... from the rest and put together work teams with just gay people, dividing the groups into those who were active and passive, and subjecting them to all manner of insults, beatings and lockups." 1

According to Wikipedia, during most of the 20th century and before, public antipathy towards LGBT people had been high in Cuba and elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Rachel Evans, writing for the International Journal of Socialist Renewal listed some of the events since 1975 that lead to the eventual acceptance of the LGBT community. Some events were:

  • 1975: The Cuban Supreme Court overturned limits that had been set on the maximum number of gays and lesbians who were allowed to be employed in the arts and education fields.

  • 1977: The Cuban National Group for Sexual Education was formed. Their name was later changed to "CENESEX"

  • 1979: The Cuban Penal Code of 1938 had criminalized: "habitual homosexual acts, homosexual molestation, scandalous, indecent behavior, ostentatious displays of homosexuality in public ..." This was changed so that private same-sex activities were decriminalized.

  • 1981: The Government's Ministry of Culture distributed a publication "In Defence of Love" which described homosexual orientation as a variant of human sexuality.

  • 1987: Laws restricting behavior by persons of the same sex in public places were removed from the criminal code.

  • 1989: The first gender-conforming surgery (a.k.a. sex-reassignment surgery) was performed in Cuba on a transgender person.

  • 1993: Persons with a homosexual orientation were allowed to join the Communist party. Also that year, the age of consent for same-sex sexual behavior was reduced to 16 years -- the same as it had been for heterosexuals.

  • 2001: Two male same-sex couples held a double wedding in Havana. It had no legal significance.

  • 2004: Ricardo Alarcón, president of the National Assembly discussed legalizing same-sex civil unions or marriages. He said:

    "We have to redefine the concept of marriage. Socialism should be a society that does not exclude anybody."

    An official of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) stated that:

    "... neither institutional nor penal repression exists against lesbians and homosexuals. ... there are no legal sanctions against LGBT people. Transformismo is well accepted by the majority of Cubans. (The term "Transformismo" refers to transgender persons)

  • 2007: The first International Day of Action Against Homophobia was observed. Also, Ricardo Alarcón, the president of the National Assembly said:

    "We have to abolish any form of discrimination against homosexuality."

  • 2008: Free gender confirmation surgery became a permanent part of Cuban universal health care. 2

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2018-JUL-23: A draft of a new Cuban Constitution was presented to the National Assembly:

In the Western Hemisphere, same-sex marriage is legal in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the United States, Uruguay, and some states in Mexico. However, it is not available in Cuba. Meanwhile, homosexual behavior is not criminalized in Cuba, but remains a criminal offence in seven Caribbean island nations. 3

The existing Cuban Constitution, created in 1976, restricted marriage to one man and one woman. A new draft Constitution has been written; it is known as the "Magna Carta." Article 68 in the proposed new constitution defines marriage is a union "between two persons." This clause would make it possible for the National Assembly to pass legislation in the future to allow either opposite-sex or same-sex couples to marry. 3

The proposed Constitution triggered a very unusual event in Cuba: open political debate. Five evangelical Christian denominations campaigned against the draft version. They published an open letter during June that said:

  • "marriage is exclusively the union of man and woman," and

  • "the ideology of gender has no relation with our culture, our struggles, or with the historic leaders of the Revolution." 3

Posters showing a drawing of a woman, man, their daughter and their son -- all holding hands -- appeared around Havana. They contained a message:

"I am in favor of original design -- the family as God created it."

The pro-equality campaign is led by Mariela Castro. She is the director of the National Centre for for Sex Education (CENESEX), and is a daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro. 3

Pablo Navarro, 70, spent two years during the 1960's as a young adult in a UMAP camp because of his sexual orientation. He said:

"This is marvelous. [I] feel proud that the new generation can enjoy this achievement even though we couldn’t."

Yeandro Tamayo, 40, a gay theatre director from Havana, said:

"It’s a really important step forward. I’ve never been interested in marriage. Now they they have approved it, I might get married myself!" 3

Legislators voted unanimously in favor of the new draft Constitution.

The next step was a series of public consultations spread over three months in Cuban town halls, workplaces, and universities: a total of 35,000 meetings.

At one of the consultations, Mario, a retiree, commented on Article 68, saying:

"I don’t agree…It’s unnatural and goes against communism. Also our religious comrades don’t approve. A measure like this is only going to divide the country. ... this is what the enemy wants.

María, another retiree and grandmother of two girls, agrees. She said:

"How can a child live with two men? Who will they call mother? What values will they learn? They will teach them to be homosexuals!" 4

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2018 to 2019: Marriage equality may be attained by a number of steps:

  • 2018-JUN: The Assembly of God Pentecostal Church, the Evangelical League, the Methodist Church of Cuba, and other Christian churches issued a joint statement opposing gay marriage. It states that:

    "... gender ideology ... [has] nothing whatsoever to do with our culture, our independence struggles, nor with the historic leaders of the Revolution." 7

  • 2018-SEP: Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who had been elected in 2018-APR, became the first Cuban president to publicly support same-sex marriage. He said that changing the marriage definition:

    "... responds to the problem of eliminating all types of discrimination in society." 5

  • 2018-NOV-15: The proposed amended constitution was resubmitted to the National Assembly:

Referring to the three-month public consultation process, Homero Acosta, head of the state council and one of the new constitution's authors, said:

"The people can be proud of having built a Constitution."

  • 2018-DEC-18: The Constitutional Commission removed the marriage definition from the draft constitution. This means that if the proposed Constitution is passed, it would not regulate marriage. That would be left up to the National Assembly who could simply legalize same-sex marriages by amending the Family Code at any time.

  • 2019-FEB-24: A public referendum was held, and the new Constitution was passed by an overwhelming vote: 89.85% in favor vs. 9% opposed. This was in spite of opposition from the Roman Catholic church and many evangelical Christians. 6

  • 2019-MAR: The Government launched public consultations on a new Family Code, which would address same-sex marriage. The National Assembly and Mariela Castro have stated that same-sex marriage will be legalized through a amendment to the Family Code.

  • 2019-APR-10: The new Constitution took effect. Its Article 82 states:

    "Marriage is a social and legal institution. It is one form of family organization. It is based on free will and equality of rights, obligations and legal capacity of the spouses. The law decides how it is constituted and its effects."

    By not specifying that spouses must be of opposite sexes, it allows for the National Assembly to legalize same-sex marriages throughout the country.

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  1. Pablo de Llano, "After decades of homophobia, Cuba closer to allowing same-sex marriage," El Pais, 2018-JUL-23, at:
  2. Rachel Evans,"Rainbow Cuba: the sexual revolution within the revolution," International Journal of Socialist Renewal, 2012-JAN-28, at:
  3. Ed Augustin, "Cuba's new constitution paves way for same-sex marriage," The Guardian, 2018-JUL-23, at:
  4. Claudia Padrón Cueto, "Constitutional debate in Cuba will not be televised," Washington Blade, 2018-NOV-15, at:
  5. "Cuba set to debate draft constitution paving way for gay marriage," Jamaica Observer, 2018-NOV-15, at:
  6. Marc Frank, Nelson Acosta, "Cubans overwhelmingly ratify new socialist constitution," Reuters, 2019-FEB-25, at:
  7. María Isabel Alfonso , "As Cuba Backs Gay Marriage, Churches Oppose the Government’s Plan," Christian Headlines, 2018-SEP-18, at:
  8. "Recognition of same-sex unions in Cuba," Wikipedia, as on 2019-APR-28, at:
  9. "LGBT rights in Cuba," Wikipedia, as on 2019-APR-28, at:

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Copyright © 2018 and 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2019-MAY-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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