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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 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: Private same-sex sexual activities were decriminalized. The Cuban Penal Code of 1938 had criminalized: "habitual homosexual acts, homosexual molestation, scandalous, indecent behavior, ostentatious displays of homosexuality in public ..."

  • 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 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 same-sex male 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 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 attain marriage equality for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. 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-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."

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who was elected in 2018-APR, is a supporter of same-sex marriage. He said that the marriage definition:

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

If approved by the National Assembly, then it will be sent to a commission of Communist Party experts. They will submit a refined text to the National Assembly in December for for final approval. A public referendum is expected 2019-FEB-24.

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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:

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Copyright © 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2018-NOV-16
Author: B.A. Robinson

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