Cuba same-sex marriage campaign gains traction
CARDENAS, Cuba — Niurca Rodríguez is a housewife with a gay son, Onasis,
who lives in the Cuban city of Cárdenas that is near the beach resort of
She told Victor Manuel Dueñas of the Babel Sociocultural Project, a
group based in the city of Santo Domingo in the province of Villa Clara
that advocates on behalf of LGBT Cubans and other disadvantaged groups,
in a interview she recorded at her son's home on May 5 that she is "very
proud" of him. Rodríguez also expressed optimism that Cuba will one day
extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.
"It has already been approved in other countries," Rodríguez told
Dueñas, referring to same-sex marriage. "I wish for the same thing in Cuba."
Dueñas is among the Cuban LGBT activists who are behind a campaign in
support of marriage rights for same-sex couples on the Communist island.
The campaign — known as "We Also Love" or "Nosotros También Amamos" in
Spanish — officially began last December.
Activists have encouraged Cubans to sign a petition in support of
marriage rights for same-sex couples. They ultimately hope to spur
members of the Cuban National Assembly to debate the issue in December
when they hold their annual meeting in Havana.
"I want to get married one day," Dueñas told the Washington Blade on
June 2 during a telephone interview from Cárdenas. "This is my dream."
José Armando, a 27-year-old gay man who works for a state-owned
transportation company in Cárdenas, expressed a similar statement in an
interview that Dueñas added to the video that includes Rodríguez's
comments in support of the marriage campaign.
"[Same-sex marriage] would give me the chance to enter into a union with
the person who I love," José Armando told Dueñas.
Government has 'obligation' to protect minorities
The Cuban constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman. It
also bans discrimination based on race, skin color, sex, national
origin, religious beliefs and "any other offense against human dignity."
The Cuban National Assembly in late 2013 approved a bill that added
sexual orientation to the country's employment nondiscrimination law.
Mariela Castro, the daughter of President Raúl Castro who directs Cuba's
National Center for Sexual Education, voted against the proposal because
it did not include transgender-specific language.
"The state's institutions educate everyone from an early age on the
principle of equality of human beings," reads Article 42 of the Cuban
Dueñas told the Blade that the Cuban government has "an obligation" to
"create laws to protect minorities." Roydes Gamboa, a Havana-based
lawyer who founded Free Angel, a group that fights anti-LGBT
discrimination in Cuba, also referenced the country's constitution
during a May 20 interview at the Habana Libre hotel in the Cuban
capital's Vedado neighborhood.
"It is going to happen in full relation to the principle of equality,"
Gamboa told the Blade.
Mariela Castro supports same-sex marriage
Gay men were among the tens of thousands of people that then-President
Fidel Castro sent to labor camps known as Military Units to Aid
Production in the years after the 1959 Cuban revolution. The Communist
island's government forcibly quarantined people with HIV/AIDS in
state-run sanitaria until 1993.
Gamboa told the Blade that one of the marriage campaign's biggest
challenges is homophobic attitudes among lawmakers and Cuban society.
"These legislators are from the triumph of the revolution with no
intention of politicizing the issue," he said, referring to marriage
rights for same-sex couples.
Mariela Castro, who is Fidel Castro's niece, has previously said she
supports marriage rights for same-sex couples.
She made no public mention of the marriage campaign in two marches she
led in Havana and in the city of Matanzas last month that commemorated
the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The National
Center for Sexual Education, which is known by the Spanish acronym
CENESEX, and a representative of the Cuban government in Washington did
not respond to the Blade's request for comment on the marriage campaign.
Tico Almeida, the gay Cuban American president of Freedom to Work, gave
a speech in Havana on May 12 that focused on marriage rights for
same-sex couples and other LGBT-specific advocacy efforts in the U.S.
Mariela Castro and Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, were among
those who were in the audience.
Wolfson and Almeida both told the Blade that they were able to have
lunch with Mariela Castro after the event.
"It was a very interesting conversation," Wolfson told the Blade on June
3 during a telephone interview before he flew to Australia to meet with
activists who are campaigning in support of marriage rights for same-sex
couples. "She (Mariela Castro) spoke about her hope of moving forward
the importance of Cuba having the freedom to marry and building on the
steps they have taken."
Almeida expressed a similar sentiment, noting to the Blade on Monday in
an email that he and Wolfson spoke with Mariela Castro roughly a year
and a half after President Obama announced the normalization of
relations with Cuba.
"We had a very thorough and respectful discussion about some topics on
which we agree, like marriage equality for same-sex Cuban couples, as
well as some topics on which I strongly disagree with the Cuban
government," Almeida told the Blade.
Gamboa is among the Cuban LGBT activists who have criticized Mariela
Castro for not publicly supporting the marriage campaign.
He told the Blade that he "was not interested in" the campaign after she
met with Wolfson and Almeida because activists who are not affiliated
with CENESEX and her father's government. The two men met with Gamboa
and other advocates who are campaigning for marriage rights for same-sex
couples while they were in Cuba.
Wolfson and Almeida also met with U.S. Chief of Mission Jeffrey
DeLaurentis at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
"I was proud to help organize Cuba travel for one of my heroes, Evan
Wolfson, and I was determined that we would not make the same mistakes
as too many Hollywood celebrities and some high-profile LGBT Americans
who have attempted to engage on Cuba issues," Almeida told the Blade,
without referring to a specific person.
Trans actress Candis Cayne traveled to Cuba last month. She took part in
the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia march that
Mariela Castro led in Havana on May 14.
Cayne has not responded to the Blade's requests for an interview about
her trip to Cuba.
Almeida met with activists in Matanzas and in the city of Cienfuegos
while he was on the Communist island.
"I considered it absolutely critical that we meet with the Cuban leaders
of the 'Nosotros También Amamos' campaign petitioning for marriage
equality in Cuba," he told the Blade.
Activist: Marriage campaign will benefit LGBT Cubans
The U.S. is among the more than a dozen countries that have extended
marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Two men in the Colombian city of Cali on May 24 became the first
same-sex couple to legally marry in the South American country. Mexican
President Enrique Peña Nieto reiterated his support of nuptials for gays
and lesbians last week in the Huffington Post.
Almeida told the Blade that he plans to organize a delegation of LGBT
Americans that will travel to Cuba later this year. Gamboa said that he
and others who are working on the marriage campaign have spoken with
activists in the U.S., Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico and other
"We can bring it to Cuba," he told the Blade, referring to marriage
rights for same-sex couples.
Juana Mora, a Havana-based activist who met with Obama in March while he
was in the Cuban capital, told the Blade on Monday during a Facebook
interview that the marriage campaign will benefit LGBT people across the
country. These include trans people who she described as "the most
vulnerable" to violence and discrimination because of their gender identity.
"Any campaign helps in passing laws in favor of the community," Mora
told the Blade.
Source: Cuba same-sex marriage campaign gains traction -