Cubans will today vote in a landmark referendum on whether or not to legalise same-sex marriage and adoption, allow surrogate pregnancies, and give greater rights to non-biological parents.
Africa Daily News, New York reports that the last time there was a referendum, about eight million Cubans over the age of 16 are eligble to vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ for the proposal, which has been supported by the communist government but criticized by Catholic and evangelical church leaders.
The final week of campaigning saw the government flood TV, radio, and social media with pro-equality messages, along with glitzy billboards, public rallies, and tweets from President Miguel Diaz-Canel urging Cubans to vote yes ‘in favor of democracy.’
The official attitude toward homosexuality has changed significantly over the past 20 years after decades of persecution.
In 2019, the government sought to include same-sex marriage in the country’s new constitution but backed down after criticism from the church. The Conference of Bishops has once again come out against the current proposal.
Africa Daily News, New York reports that no fewer than 79,000 neighborhood meetings were held between February and April to facilitate a mass public debate on family rights. This resulted in more than half of the original text being modified, according to state media.
Political scientist Rafael Hernandez said the referendum on same-sex marriage is the “most important human rights legislation” in Cuba since the 1959 revolution.
‘The issue is that many people will vote … in protest or in loyalty to the government, much more than on content,’ Latin America expert Bert Hoffmann told reporters on Monday. ‘And that would be a shame.’
Cuba’s is facing its worst economic crisis in 30 years due to a collapse in international tourism and ongoing US sanctions.