Cuba approves same-sex marriage after tense referendum

HAVANA — Cubans approved a comprehensive “family law” code that would allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt, as well as redefine rights for children and grandparents, officials said Monday, despite opposition from the national referendum was unusually strong against the Communist Party-ruled island.

The measure, which contains more than 400 articles, was approved by 66.9 percent to 33.1 percent, National Electoral Council President Alina Balseiro Gutiérrez told official media, although returns from several seats remain to be counted.

The reforms met with unusually strong open opposition from Cuba’s growing evangelical movement—and many other Cubans—despite a broad government campaign in favor of the measure, including thousands of informational meetings across the country and extensive media coverage supporting it.

Elections in Cuba – in which no party other than the Communist Party is allowed – routinely result in margins of victory in excess of 90% – as does the referendum on major constitutional reform in 2019.

The code will allow for surrogacy, greater rights for grandparents in relation to grandchildren, protection for the elderly and measures against gender-based violence.

Read more: Where did the journey of three women from Cuba to America leave them

President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who promoted the law, admitted he had questions about the measure as he voted Sunday.

“Most of our people will vote in favor of the code, but it still has problems that our society as a whole doesn’t understand,” he said.

The measure was approved by Cuba’s parliament, the National Assembly, after years of debate over such reforms.

A key supporter of the measure was Mariela Castro, director of the National Center for Sexuality Education, an advocate for the rights of same-sex couples, the daughter of former President Raul Castro and the niece of his brother Fidel.

But Cuba has strong social conservatism, and several religious leaders have expressed concern or opposed the law, worrying it could weaken nuclear families.

While Cuba was officially—and often militantly—atheist for decades after the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro“Raoul’s brother” has become more tolerant of religions in the last quarter of a century. This means a greater opening not only to the once dominant Roman Catholic Church, but also to Afro-Cuban religions, Protestants and Muslims.

Some of these churches took advantage of the opening in 2018 and 2019 to campaign against another plebiscite that would have rewritten the constitution in a way that would allow gay marriage.

The opposition was strong enough that the government at the time backed down.

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