(CMR) Cubans voted to legalize same-sex marriage in a historic national referendum on Sunday. The country’s National Electoral Council announced that most of the voters who turned out on Sunday voted in favor of a new law that offers greater protection to the vulnerable, including the LGBTQ community.
The referendum on Sunday was for a new Family Code which extends greater protection to women, children, and the elderly, as well as allows LGBTQ couples to marry and adopt children, CNN explained.
This is a welcomed change for LGBTQ people in Cuba who faced official discrimination for decades. Gay people were persecuted and sent to work camps in the 1960s and 70s. Though homosexuality was legalized in Cuba in 1979, many gay men and women still faced open discrimination.
According to CNN, Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban president Raul Castro, has openly advocated through a government-funded center for improved rights for gays, lesbians, and transgender people. But the push for greater equality faced stiff opposition from both outside and within the Cuban government.
According to CNN, in 2018, Cuban legislators abandoned provisions that would have legalized same-sex marriage amid fears that a homophobic backlash would have lowered turnout for a referendum to approve a new constitution. The following year, Cuban police broke up a peaceful LGBTQ rights parade saying the marchers did not have permission to hold the rally.
Many in Cuba oppose the step, including evangelical churches and non-religious conservatives.
Some anti-government activists consider the referendum an effort by the state to improve its human rights image following a brutal crackdown on all forms of dissent in recent years.