More than eight million Cubans are invited to answer Yes or No to the question: do you agree with the Family Code? The new legislation, which if approved will replace the one in force since 1975, defines marriage as the union “between two people”, opening the door to homosexual unions and adoption for same-sex couples.
Photo: EFE-EFE/Yander Zamora
Cubans began voting Sunday in a referendum on the new Family Code, a sweeping piece of legislation that includes same-sex marriage and surrogacy. The polling stations opened normally in the schools of Havana, AFP journalists confirmed.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel went to vote very early with his wife, Lis Cuesta, in a polling place in the municipality of Playa, in the west of the capital. The Family Code “is a fair, necessary, updated, modern norm that gives rights and guarantees to all people, to all the diversities of families, of people, of creed,” the president told the press after depositing his vote.
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More than eight million Cubans are called to answer Yes or No to the only question: do you agree with the Family Code? The new legislation, which if approved will replace the one in force since 1975, defines marriage as the union “between two people”, opening the door to homosexual unions and adoption for same-sex couples. It will also allow the legal recognition of several fathers and mothers, in addition to the biological ones, as well as surrogacy, as long as it is non-profit, while adding other rights that favor children, the elderly and the disabled.
Several of these issues are sensitive in a society still marked by machismo that was exacerbated in the 1960s and 1970s, when the government ostracized many homosexuals or sent them to militarized farm labor camps. In the following decades the authorities changed and now the new code has been the subject of an intense government media campaign.
“We are not voting Yes with the PCC (Cuban Communist Party). It is the PCC who is voting Yes with us,” Maykel González, a gay activist, insisted on his Twitter account, in which he showed his ballot marked Yes.
What opposition has the project had?
In Latin America, same-sex marriage is legal in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Chile, and in several Mexican states.
“A few years ago I would not have accepted this code, but (…) one has to update. This is a very humane code, totally inclusive,” said Elio Gómez, a 78-year-old former professor of Marxism, at a polling station in Old Havana. The former teacher believes that many Cubans suffered prejudice and that the code is going to “pay off a debt with them.”
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The government tried to introduce equal marriage in the 2019 Constitution, but had to back down in the face of strong criticism from the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church.
In a statement, the Cuban bishops’ conference returned to the fray this month by opposing several points, such as adoption by same-sex couples, assisted pregnancy and extended paternity.
Between February and April, a consultation of the Family Code was carried out in 79,000 neighborhood meetings, neighborhood by neighborhood. This led to a change of 48% of the text.
An attempt at law in the midst of an exacerbated crisis
But the wide spectrum of the code, of almost 500 articles, feeds doubts among some who agree, for example, with same-sex marriages, but not with adopting.
For the Cuban political scientist Rafael Hernández, it is “the most important piece of legislation in terms of human rights” that occurred in Cuba after the great changes at the beginning of the 1959 revolution.
For the first time there are groups claiming that the government “has gone overboard” by over-fulfilling what was promised.
“The government is making it easier for the most conservative sectors of society to become visible with their own ideas, without making them up,” says Hernández.
It is the first time that Cubans go to vote for the validation of a law.
In a context of deep economic crisis, a migratory exodus and more than a year after the historic demonstrations of July 11, 2021, there are citizens tempted to refrain from going to vote in protest. “I think I have been one of the first to say No. There is no food, cleaning products here, we are surviving, and with tremendous blackouts, I see no reason to say Yes,” said José Antonio Callejas, 47, leaving a box in Old Havana.
The opponents have gone to social networks to call to vote against the text or abstain. However, the law will take effect immediately if it receives more than 50% of the vote.
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