Cuba Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Written by Ciara Perez

October 3, 2022

The referendum on Sunday, September 25th, was a vote on Cuba’s proposed Family Code. The Family Code is a 100-page document that proposed the legalization and allowance of same-sex marriage, same-sex couples to adopt children, surrogate pregnancies, the redefining of children and grandparent rights, the codification of domestic violence penalties, and the promotion of equally sharing domestic rights and responsibilities between men and women. There have only been four referendums since the 1959 Revolution in Cuba, and this is the second time that the government has tried to push for same-sex marriage. The first attempt in 2019 was shut down by the campaigning of religious leaders.

According to President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who was a big proponent for the Family Code, the hope behind this referendum was to abolish “prejudices and taboos that have been ingrained in Cuban society”. Prior to the election, the Family Code had undergone 25 drafts and had incorporated several thousand suggestions of what the public hoped to achieve. Concerns regarding the Code focused on the fact that it would outlaw corporal punishment, require parents to educate children and to respect authorities, and would “make it easier for anyone to report physical or verbal abuse of minors to law enforcement”.

Although the government led a campaign to show their support for the referendum in the weeks leading up to the vote, there was still strong resistance to the Code among religious groups, particularly among the Evangelical movement. There has also been criticism of the government for leaving the Code up to a popular vote rather than passing it through legislation. Critics believed that by leaving it to a popular vote, the government was shedding its responsibility to address the issue of gender and sexual discrimination if the referendum didn’t pass. Other critics believe that the government was trying to boost its image as a system of democratic centralism through the vote.

The results of Sunday’s vote, where roughly 8.4 million Cubans participated, demonstrated that an overwhelming majority were in favor of the Family Code. The results showed that almost one third, about 66.9%, of the Cuban population voted to ratify the code, while only 33% opposed it. This was a victory for the government, as there were two main concerns for voter behavior: 1) that people would choose not to vote as an act of dissent, or 2) they would vote, but they would vote ‘no’ or cast a blank ballet in opposition of the government. Many had hoped to prevent the government from gaining a victory and distracting from the economic and social crisis taking place in the country. Amidst these political changes, the government has been cracking down on civil society and political opposition. Since the July 11, 2021 anti-government demonstrations, over 1,400 people have been arrested for participating, which has led to a record high number of Cubans leaving the country.

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