(WB) The daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro on Friday said her organization plans to submit proposals to the country’s National Assembly that would extend marriage and other rights to LGBT Cubans.

Hatzel Vela, a Havana-based reporter for the South Florida television station WPLG, reported National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) Director Mariela Castro made the comments during a press conference in the Cuban capital.

On Cuba, a Miami-based magazine that covers the Communist island, reported Mariela Castro said CENESEX in July will propose amending the Cuban constitution and changing the country’s family and penal codes when the National Assembly meets again. Media reports indicate Mariela Castro did not provide specific details when she spoke to reporters.

Mariela Castro, who is a member of the National Assembly, spoke to reporters ahead of CENESEX-organized events in Havana and in the city of Pinar del Río that will commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The press conference also took place less than a month after the National Assembly chose Miguel Díaz-Canel succeeded Raúl Castro as the country’s president.


Lesbian granted custody of daughter’s children in 2017

More than 25,000 gay men and others deemed unfit for military services were sent to labor camps known by the Spanish acronym UMAP in the years after the 1959 Cuban revolution that brought Raúl Castro’s brother, Fidel Castro, to power. The Cuban government until 1993 forcibly quarantined people with HIV/AIDS in state-run sanitaria.

Cuba in 1979 repealed its sodomy law. Fidel Castro nearly three decades later apologized for the work camps during an interview with a Mexican newspaper.

The Cuban constitution currently defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Mariela Castro has previously said she supports marriage rights for same-sex couples. LGBT activists who work independently of Mariela Castro and CENESEX in recent years have launched a campaign that urges Cuban lawmakers to debate the issue.

Puerto Rico, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico City are among the jurisdictions in Latin America in which same-sex couples can legally marry.

Cuba since 2008 has offered free sex-reassignment surgeries through its national health care system, although Mariela Castro has previously said less than 40 people have been able to receive them. Mariela Castro voted against a 2013 proposal that sought to add sexual orientation to Cuba’s labor law because it did not include gender identity.

Díaz-Canel defended Mariela Castro’s recent doctoral thesis that focused on the “social integration” of transgender people. Díaz-Canel also supported El Mejunje, an LGBT cultural center in the city of Santa Clara, when he was secretary of the Communist Party in Villa Clara Province.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in January issued a landmark ruling that recognizes same-sex marriage and transgender rights. The decision is not legally binding in Cuba because it is not party to the American Convention on Human Rights.

A three-judge panel in Havana last October granted a woman custody of her late daughter’s three children who she is raising with her same-sex partner. Acepto, a group that advocates for marriage rights for same-sex couples in Cuba, in January noted the ruling is potentially the first time the Cuban government has legally recognized the “legitimacy of a non-heteronormative family.”

“We will see what happens,” Acepto told the Washington Blade on Friday after Mariela Castro’s press conference.


— Michael K. Lavers, Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association.