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Cuba legalizes same-sex marriage and adoption in historic referendum

HAVANA (AP) — Cubans have approved a sweeping “family law” code that would allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt, as well as redefine the rights of children and grandparents, officials said Monday, though opposition in the national referendum was unusually strong on the Communist Party-ruled island.

The measure, which contains more than 400 articles, was approved by 66.9% to 33.1%, the president of the National Electoral Council, Alina Balseiro Gutiérrez, told official media, although returns from some places had yet to be counted.

The reforms met unusually strong open resistance from the growing evangelical movement in Cuba, and many other Cubans, despite an extensive government campaign in favor of the measure, which included thousands of information meetings across the country and extensive media coverage. who supported her.

Cuban elections, in which no party other than the communist is allowed, routinely produce margins of victory of more than 90%, as does a referendum on a major constitutional reform in 2019.

The code would allow surrogate pregnancies, expand the rights of grandparents with respect to grandchildren, the protection of the elderly and measures against gender violence.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who has promoted the law, acknowledged questions about the measure when he voted on Sunday.

“Most of our people will vote for the code, but they still have issues that our society as a whole doesn’t understand,” he said.

On Monday, he celebrated the passage of the measure, tweeting: “Love is now the law.”

The approval “is to pay a debt of several generations of Cubans whose domestic plans had been waiting for this law for years,” he added. “Starting today, we will be a better nation.”

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

One of the main promoters of the measure was Mariela Castro, director of the National Center for Sex Education, promoter of the rights of same-sex couples, daughter of former President Raúl Castro and niece of her brother Fidel.

But there is a strong streak of social conservatism in Cuba and several religious leaders have expressed concern or opposition to the law, which could weaken nuclear families.

While Cuba was officially, and often militantly, atheist for decades after the 1959 revolution led by Raúl’s brother Fidel Castro, it has become more tolerant of religions over the last quarter century. That has meant greater openness not only to the once-dominant Roman Catholic Church, but also to Afro-Cuban, Protestant and Muslim religions.

Some of those churches took advantage of the opening in 2018 and 2019 to campaign against another plebiscite that would have rewritten the constitution to allow same-sex marriage.

The opposition was strong enough for the government at the time to back down.


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