Cuba’s government has backed away from upholding gay marriage protections in its new constitution after widespread popular rejection of the idea. Language saying marriage was between ‘two people with absolutely equal rights’ was dropped due to public pressure. The Guardian reports:
Gay rights advocates had proposed eliminating the description in the constitution of marriage as a union of a man and woman, changing it to the union of “two people … with absolutely equal rights and obligations.” But the government said on Tuesday that language promoting the legalisation of gay marriage would be removed from the draft.
That proposed language in support of same-sex marriage drew protests from evangelical churches and citizens in months of public meetings on the new constitution. State media said that Cubans had made 192,408 comments on Article 68, with the majority asking to eliminate it.
The new constitution, known as the Magna Carta – which also recognises private property for the first time since the Cold War – will be put to a referendum later this year.
Cuba’s National Assembly announced on Twitter that a powerful commission responsible for revising the constitution had proposed eliminating the language from the new charter “as a way of respecting all opinions.”
The constitution would instead be silent on the issue, leaving open the possibility of a future legalisation without specifically promoting it.
Francisco Rodriguez, a Communist Party member and gay blogger known as “Paquito de Cuba,” said simply eliminating any reference to the participants in a marriage is an acceptable compromise that will focus gay activists on campaigning for changes in the national legal code that would allow gay marriage. “This was a side step,” he said. “It’s a solution. Not ‘between a man and a woman’ or ‘between two people.’ Now is when it all begins.”
The constitutional commission is headed by Communist Party head and former president Raul Castro.
His daughter, Mariela Castro, is a lawmaker known as Cuba’s highest-profile advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual rights. Her advocacy has helped rehabilitate Cuba’s international image on LGBTQ rights after the Castro-led communist government sent gay men to work camps in the 1960s. Widespread persecution continued through the 1970s.
While Havana and some other Cuban cities have flourishing gay communities, anti-homosexual attitudes remain deeply rooted among much of the population. Cubans who ordinarily shy from open criticism of the government spoke out in large numbers against the proposed constitutional Article 68 promoting gay marriage during public consultations on the draft constitution throughout the year.
Cuba’s rapidly growing evangelical churches also positioned themselves against the article, increasing pressure on a government unused to public pushback.
The dropping of the gay marriage language is the third dramatic reversal this month for a government that for decades has issued most laws and regulations with little public debate or insight into the working of the ruling Communist Party.
The government last week eliminated some sections of laws about limits of artistic expression and entrepreneurship, which generated bitter complaints from entrepreneurs and artists. The measures included limits on the number of business licenses per household and barred private restaurants from having more than 50 seats. They also granted a corps of cultural “inspectors” the power to immediately close any art exhibition or performance found to violate Cuba’s socialist revolutionary values.
On 4 December, the country’s vice minister of culture said the art regulation would be delayed and the inspectors’ power would be limited to making recommendations to higher-ranking cultural officials. In addition, they will not be able to inspect any studio or home that is not open to the public.
The next day, the government eliminated the limits on restaurant tables and business licenses, along with new taxes and financial requirements for entrepreneurs.