Cuba votes in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in a referendum

In a referendum, Cuban citizens have given their thumbs up to new family legislation that opens the door to same-sex marriage.

Cuba votes in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in a referendum
Using a referendum method, Cuba approves the legalization of same-sex marriage. Photo by Linhao Zhang / Unsplash

Preliminary results show that almost 67% of voters backed the new family law, Alina Balseiro, president of the electoral council, said on television. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel tweeted that supporters of the new family law and justice had won.

The new law marks a major change since, as recently as the 1960s and 1970s, communist authorities sent people from the LGBTQ community to militarised labor camps. Official attitudes have since changed, and the government conducted an intensive media campaign in support of the new law.

The new family law, which will replace a 1975 law, will allow children to be brought into the world through a surrogate mother if they are not paid, legalize same-sex marriage, and allow same-sex couples to adopt children.

The new law defines marriage as a union between two people, not a union between a man and a woman, while also increasing the rights of children, the elderly, and the disabled.

According to the National Electoral Council, 74% of Cuba's 8.4 million eligible voters took part in the referendum. Of the valid votes counted so far, 3.9 million were in favor of the new law, while 1.95 million voted against it.

However, turnout was lower than in the previous referendum in 2019, when a new constitution was adopted. In that vote, 90% of voters took part.

It is also the lowest vote total for a communist government since Fidel Castro led a revolution in 1959.

"We have new rules for families (...) but the regime lost", said political analyst and oppositionist Manuel Questa, pointing out that as many people voted against the law or abstained from voting as voted for it.

Before the referendum, experts said that many Cubans would use the vote to show how unhappy they were with the government.

Dissidents called for the law to be rejected or for abstention. But Rafael Hernandez, a Cuban political analyst, thinks that the new family law is a good step toward social justice and the most important step forward in protecting human rights since the revolution.

This is the first time in Cuba that a referendum has decided on an issue other than constitutional change. The new family law had to be approved by 50% of the electorate to be adopted.

The Protestant and Catholic churches showed the greatest opposition to the new law.