Cubans to determine on same-sex marriage in nationwide referendum | CNN

Matanzas, Cuba

The cake with collectible figurines of two brides on prime melted within the Caribbean warmth and the marriage company fretted aloud that one among Cuba’s frequent blackouts might strike at any second however for Annery Rivera Velasco and Yennys Hernandez Molina, the day was one of many happiest of their lives.

The 2 girls married in September, surrounded by a small group of fellow LGBTQ activists within the sea-side metropolis of Matanzas. However their union shouldn’t be acknowledged by the Cuban authorities, no less than not but.

That would change as early as Sunday, when hundreds of thousands of Cubans are anticipated to prove to vote for or in opposition to a significant overhaul of the communist-run island’s greater than four-decade-old household code, which would come with the historic step of legalizing similar intercourse marriage.

“It’s a authorized proper and we should always all be the identical earlier than the legislation. It’s a query of a human proper,” Yennys Hernandez informed CNN moments after her marriage ceremony on the Metropolitan Neighborhood Church, a LGBTQ-friendly church that is likely one of the few on the island to hold out same-sex marriages.

Following the church service, the couple reminded assembled family and friends members to vote for the brand new household code.

“I imagine we’re all equal when it comes to rights, choices, potentialities and when it comes to being a citizen and expressing that citizenship. I don’t assume we’re lower than the remainder of society,” mentioned Annery Rivera, who mentioned that if the brand new household code passes, she and Hernandez would maintain a civil marriage ceremony that might imply within the eyes of the Cuban state they’re legally married.

In response to the Cuban authorities, the 100-page household code supplies better protections to girls, kids and the aged in addition to permitting LGBTQ {couples} to marry and undertake kids.

Members within the LGBTQ neighborhood in Cuba have waited many years for this second.

However some additionally worry a backlash if the code passes.

Following the 1959 revolution, homosexual individuals had been amongst these despatched to work camps often called Army Items to Assist Manufacturing together with political dissidents, monks and others thought of undesirables by Fidel Castro’s new authorities. Some homosexual males and lesbians even mentioned they carried out sham marriages to keep away from falling underneath suspicion.

Castro later apologized for the best way homosexuals had been handled however a full accounting of how many individuals had been despatched to the pressured labor camps and who ordered their creation has by no means been revealed by the federal government.

In 1979, homosexuality was legalized in Cuba though many homosexual women and men mentioned they nonetheless confronted open discrimination.

In 1993, the Cuban movie “Strawberry and Chocolate” in regards to the unlikely friendship between a younger supporter of the revolution and an older homosexual man was launched and sparked a nationwide debate in regards to the therapy of LGBTQ individuals on the island.

For greater than a decade, Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban president Raul Castro, has brazenly advocated by means of a government-funded middle for improved rights for gays, lesbians and transgender individuals.

However the push for better equality has confronted stiff opposition from each outdoors and from throughout the Cuban authorities.

In 2018, Cuban legislators deserted provisions that might have legalized similar intercourse marriage amid fears {that a} homophobic backlash would have lowered turnout for a referendum to approve a brand new structure.

The next yr, Cuban police broke up a peaceable LGBTQ rights parade saying the marchers didn’t have permission to carry the rally.

Cuba’s rising evangelical neighborhood specifically has brazenly advocated in opposition to approving the household code.

Evangelical pastor Yoel Serrano informed CNN that whereas evangelicals have been extra outspoken about their opposition to same-sex marriage, many teams throughout Cuban society have their reservations.

“I take into consideration 95% of Christians disapprove however it’s not simply Christians,” Serrano mentioned. “There are communists who should not in settlement, materialistic individuals not in settlement. Lots of people who imagine in several issues that don’t agree with the adjustments they wish to make with the brand new household code.”

Even at neighborhood “consultations” organized by the federal government throughout the island, some individuals who recognized themselves as loyal revolutionaries mentioned they had been uncertain how they might vote.

“It might be unlucky if the code wasn’t authorized massively due to one article,” a girl named Melba mentioned – referring to the same-sex provision – at a neighborhood assembly in 2021 that CNN was permitted to cowl.

Within the weeks earlier than the referendum, the Cuban authorities has made a full court docket press in favor of the brand new household code throughout state-run media, arguing the brand new code is proof the island’s now greater than six-decades-old-revolution is able to adapting to the instances.

It stays to be seen if Cubans will vote overwhelmingly to permit same-sex marriage or if they are going to use the referendum as a uncommon alternative to specific their anger on the authorities over wide-spread energy cuts, runaway inflation and more and more naked grocery store cabinets.

On the church in Matanzas, Rev. Elaine Saralegui Caraballo, the pastor who married Yennys and Annery, mentioned that if the referendum passes or is rejected, the wrestle for full equality nonetheless must proceed.

“I’ve religion that love will win,” she mentioned. “If it’s a “Sure” or “No” it’s the identical. We inform our neighborhood nobody can take away your worth, who you’re.”

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