Over 1,000 members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Cuban community marched in Havana, Saturday, May 9. The march was organized by President Raul Castro’s daughter, niece to Fidel Castro, Mariela Castro. Mariela is their gay top advocate and majorly encouraged the Cuban gay couples to ceremonially trade their vows. It was with tremendous pride that they could show themselves in their truest form, even in the midst of discrimination. It was the Eighth Annual March against Homophobia and Transphobia with a little extra flavor this year.
20 Cuban gay couples participated in a “Celebration of Love” and they symbolically exchanged wedding vows. Same-sex marriage is still illegal in Cuba. Cuban and other religious leaders from the U.S. and Canada, crowded in a pavilion for the ceremonial wedding vows. The blessings lead up to the Global Day against Homophobia, May 17. The idea came from the World Pride Toronto event last June, where there was a mass wedding of over 100 couples.
The parade had conga drums and large rainbow banners. Supporters and Gay Cubans had an opportunity to celebrate without fear of judgement from society. Their parade is like living a dream and they appreciate each year same-sex couples have the freedom to be true to themselves.
Cuba use to send gay people to labor camps after the 1959 revolution. Fidel Castro admitted in 2010 that this was the wrong thing to do to gay people. Great strides have been made in Cuba for same-sex couples with help from Mariela. Mariela is a member of the National Assembly and the head of the National Center for Sex Education.
Last year, the National Assembly agreed to a labor law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. Mariela, however, voted against the law. This was rare and probably unprecedented and contradictory vote because the law did not ban discrimination based on gender identity.
Other countries in Latin America, such as Argentina, Mexico City, and Uruguay have already legalized same-sex marriage. However, in Cuba it still remains illegal. Even though the Cuban gay couples exchanging of vows was not legal, it meant something to these couples.
Cuba has changed in many area since Raul Castro has been in power. There have been steps that have improved LGBT rights in Cuba, have been the most significant of changes. Mariela is an extremely visible advocate for gay rights and she uses the fact that she is the President’s daughter to her advantage. She is always pushing for reforms. In the 90’s, Cuba got rid of the constitutional clause that declared Cuba an atheist state. Pope John Paul II visited Cuba in 1998, in 2012, Pope Benedict XVI visited Cuba as well. Cuba has also officially made Good Friday a holiday.
Castro, was not at the blessing ceremony, however, he headed the gay rights march. This event took place the day before the proof of changing times in Cuba. May 10, Raul Castro will visit the Vatican and Pope Francis.
Due to Mariela’s personal convictions, she strongly encouraged the Cuban gay couples to ceremoniously exchange their vows. She very carefully worked around it to make it not considered a weddings.
By Jeanette Smith