Cuba is working on a new constitution, which will be put to a referendum next year. In addition to recognizing private property rights for the first time in decades, the draft constitution had also included language describing marriage between “two people… of absolutely equal rights and obligations.” Gay rights groups had advocated for the gender-neutral language in the marriage section.
The proposed language, however, faced serious backlash. For several months, citizens and church groups alike spoke out against the inclusive language. Almost 200,000 public comments were made on the proposed language, with most comments opposing its inclusion.
Then the commission responsible for working on the new constitution eliminated the language about marriage entirely, leaving the proposed constitution silent on the issue. Currently, Cuba does not recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions and the current Cuban constitution limits marriage to a union between a man and a woman. Including the gender-neutral language in the constitution would have opened to door to gay marriage in the country.
Cuba has a difficult history when it comes to LGBTQ rights. In the 1960s, the country imprisoned gay men in work camps and many LGBTQ Cubans fled to the United States seeking asylum. Now, the country is trying to rehabilitate its anti-LGBTQ image, with Mariela Castro, the daughter of former president Raul Castro, advocating for more LGBTQ rights throughout the country and the new president Miguel Diaz-Canel pledging to eliminate “discrimination from society.”
The decision to remove the gender-neutral language from the proposed constitution still leaves open the possibility that the issue of gay marriage will be determined by an update in the civil family code after the new constitution is approved next year and LGBTQ advocates are hopeful that policies will continue to shift towards greater respect of LGBTQ Cubans.