Evan Wolfson travels to Cuba
Freedom to Marry founder Evan Wolfson arrived in Cuba on May 11, 2016,
to take part in International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
commemorations. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
Two American LGBT rights advocates arrived in Cuba on Wednesday to take
part a series of events that will commemorate the International Day
Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
Freedom to Work President Tico Almeida on Thursday is scheduled to take
part in a panel on LGBT advocacy in Havana that is organized by the
National Center for Sexual Education, which is directed by Mariela
Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro. He and Freedom to Marry
founder Evan Wolfson will also attend marches and other events
commemorating the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
that are taking place in the Cuban capital and the city of Matanzas
through May 21.
"Thanks to President Obama, the restoration of relations between the
U.S. and Cuba allows people to travel and exchange ideas, and I am
thrilled to now be one of them," said Wolfson in a press release.
This year's International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
commemorations in Cuba are taking place against the backdrop of a
campaign in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples that
independent LGBT rights advocates launched late last year.
The campaign — known as "We Also Love" or "Nosotros También Amamos" in
Spanish — encourages Cubans to sign a petition in support of the issues.
The Cuban constitution currently defines marriage as between a man and a
Mariela Castro, who spearheads LGBT-specific issues on the Communist
island, publicly supports marriage rights for same-sex couples. The
independent advocates who are behind the gay nuptials initiative have
accused Mariela Castro and her organization of not doing enough to spur
Cuban lawmakers to act on the issue.
"I am looking forward to meeting the brave Cubans advocating for
marriage equality," said Almeida, a Cuban American with relatives in
Wolfson: Human rights are universal
Then-President Fidel Castro sent more than 25,000 gay men and others
deemed unfit for military service to labor camps in the years after the
1959 Cuban revolution.
The Communist island's government forcibly quarantined people living
with HIV/AIDS in state-run sanitaria until 1993. Fidel Castro apologized
for sending gay men to the camps, known as Military Units to Aid
Production, during a 2010 interview with a Mexican newspaper.
Supporters of Mariela Castro, who is a member of the Cuban Parliament,
point out that Cuba has offered free sex-reassignment surgeries under
its national health care system since 2008. They also note that she
voted against a 2013 bill against discrimination in the workplace based
on sexual orientation because it did not include trans-specific protections.
Cuba and the U.S. officially restored diplomatic relations last August.
President Obama traveled to Havana in March.
He spoke publicly about human rights during a press conference with Raúl
Castro and in a televised speech at Havana's Alicia Alonso Grand
Theater. Obama also met with two independent LGBT rights advocates
before leaving the country.
"Human rights are universal," said Wolfson. "It's time for the freedom
to marry in Cuba and across the Americas."
Wolfson has traveled to South Africa, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and
other countries since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last June that
same-sex couples can legally marry across the U.S.
Freedom to Marry formally shut down earlier this year.
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