Cuba decides on same-sex marriage in historic referendum opposed by Church

The Cuban population is called to the polls this Sunday to vote in referendum on the approval of the so-called Code of Families, a legislative package that provides for the approval of same-sex marriage, surrogacy and adoption by same-sex couples and which has been opposed by the Episcopal Conference of the island.

Although this set of measures was planned to be included in the Constitution approved in 2019, the Government decided to leave it out for fear that the measures on same-sex marriage and adoption could generate rejection among the population and, therefore, the ‘green light’ would not be given to the new Magna Carta.

Thus, after the approval of the Constitution, the Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, ordered to begin the drafting of this new Code of Families which was finally approved by the National Assembly in mid-July and seen to be submitted to referendum.

Already at that time the Minister of Justice, Oscar Silvera, defined the legislative package as a proposal “for all and for the benefit of all” that “does not regulate rigid or pre-established family models”, but “attends to the characteristics and situations of each person”.

Therefore, the Legislature is now waiting for the population to give its approval to a text that plans to replace the current one, which dates back to 1975, with the approval of the aforementioned same-sex marriage, adoption between same-sex couples and surrogacy, although it is true that it includes more reforms.

Among these, the recognition of more vulnerable sectors of the population, the fight against domestic violence, the guarantee of the rights of the elderly and the defense of the right of all persons to found a family stand out.

The approval of the Family Code has become the main obsession of the pro-government sectors which, led by Díaz-Canel himself, have launched an intense campaign in social networks to promote the vote in favor of the bill under the slogan ‘Code, yes’ and has even referred to the day as “a day of celebration for Cuba”.

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The Cuban president has referred to the legislative proposal as “the hope of thousands of people marked by painful stories of exclusion and silence”, while stressing the importance of minors being “accompanied in the development of their personality”.

“Each family is a particular path, unique, unrepeatable, as unrepeatable is each person. Families are an expression of the most delicate social fabric. They are like the homeland, they provide us with identity, civility, solidarity, respect and altruism,” Díaz-Canel has defended in his social networks.

From the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Code of Families has been extolled as “one of the most transcendental norms for the social life of the nation” and a legislative proposal that “multiplies affections and adds rights” based on the principles and values of the Constitution.

Although the referendum starts on Sunday on the island, voting has already concluded abroad, where, according to official figures, more than 22,000 people -including diplomats and those who “for official reasons” are abroad– have already exercised their right to vote.

One of the main groups detracting from the renewal of the Family Code has been the Cuban Church, which has even gone so far as to adhere to statements attributed to Cuban independence leader José Martí in which he defined “love” as “the ardent and unconditional adherence that an individual of one sex feels towards an individual of the other.”

In this sense, the Church has defended that marriage between man and woman is “natural” and cannot be “displaced or deformed” to make way for other legal formulas since “the original plan of the creator is this.”

In mid-September, the Cuban bishops issued a communiqué in which they expressed their disagreement with the legislative project since they consider that the introduction of the “gender ideology” is not beneficial for families, as well as pointing out as negative the possibility for minors to assume their gender identity.

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Regarding adoption between same-sex couples, the Church denounces that this contravenes “what by nature corresponds to and needs” a minor: “a father and a mother.” “Every child is a gift and an end in itself; it is a child’s right to have a father and a mother.” In the same vein, they have also charged against surrogacy by not considering it unethical.

Despite this, the Cuban bishops do consider positive aspects such as the rejection of domestic violence, the defense of the rights and care of the elderly and those with disabilities. They have also praised the protection of children and pregnant women.

“This, however, cannot overlook the questions, criticisms, rejections of an important sector of society, which are based on legitimate principles, values, human and biological sciences, our history, traditions and religious beliefs of our people,” the Church has pointed out.

For all this, the Cuban Episcopal Conference has made an appeal to the “conscience and responsibility” of the Cuban population, whether they are believers or not, to vote with conscience not only for the current generations, but also for the future ones. “May Mary of Charity, our mother and patroness, intercede for each one of her Cuban children so that we make the right decision”, they concluded.

Other voices critical of the government, such as singer Yotuel Romero or playwright Yunior García Aguilera, have questioned the vote and have advocated abstention, not so much for its content, but for the fact that the authorities submit to referendum issues “of common sense”, while they impose the rest of the decisions on the island.

Likewise, the prominent Cuban opposition Guillermo Fariñas has even assured that participating in the vote “is to accept an institutionalized fraud”, at the same time that he has openly campaigned for the ‘no’. “The Family Code is a hypocritical maneuver of affective manipulation”, he has affirmed.

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