SANTA CLARA, Cuba (HPD) — With clenched and trembling hands and their long gala dresses, Lisset and Liusba silently climbed the dozen steps of the notary’s offices. Ahead were his two little daughters.
Almost an hour later, when they made the reverse journey, there was no longer tension on their faces but smiles. From that moment they were wives, a possibility opened just three weeks ago in Cuba after the entry into force of a broad Family Code that covers everything from same-sex marriages to surrogacy.
“It’s the big day,” Liusba Grajales, administrator of the central Universidad de Las Villas in Santa Clara province, some 250 kilometers from the capital, told The Associated Press. “Love and it is love, as it is given. Without imposition, without prejudice… I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It is a very big meeting of emotions”.
A few meters away, Lisset Díaz, a 34-year-old dancer, was overjoyed. “I feel proud,” she added. “I’m in awe”.
The couple, who have been in a relationship for more than seven years, were among the first to make the decision to legally unite in Cuba after the approval of the Family Code, whose text was debated for months and submitted to a referendum in the face of a strong opposition campaign. of evangelical groups that rejected gay marriage.
The regulation was also attacked by groups opposed to the government, who even called for a “no” vote as a form of political rejection of the authorities, and even by members of the LGBTI community itself who refused to vote for something they considered a human right like any other.
The code was approved after a strong campaign by the Cuban government and the support of the most outspoken defender of gay rights on the island, Mariela Castro, daughter of former President Raúl Castro.
Thus Cuba became the ninth country in Latin America after Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Colombia, to legalize same-sex marriage in recent years.
Cuban elections, in which no party other than the communist is allowed, routinely produce margins of victory of more than 90%, as does a referendum on a major constitutional reform in 2019.
Despite this, a third of the country, 33.15%, voted “no”. Meanwhile, 66.85% of the Cubans who attended voted “yes” and almost 6% left blank or canceled ballots.
“Many people in the community were against voting ‘yes’ because they don’t think a piece of paper is necessary. I do believe that we need the law, which protects us,” said Liusba, for whom, however, the island still “has a decade” to become a “more inclusive” society.
Two girls live with them: Laura, 11, and Ainhoa, three, the latter born from home insemination since at that time they were not offered assisted reproduction services precisely because they did not have male partners. The women also considered that joining in marriage will protect the little ones if something happens to them.
Ainhoa did not understand well the wedding ceremony of her mothers but she went round and round the place introducing Laura. “She is my sister,” she repeated.
“I’m happy for what this wedding means,” Laura told the HPD, spending time wiping away tears with the women.
The old Family Code of 1975 established that marriage was the union between a man and a woman -not between two people-.
The new law goes beyond equal marriage – which activists had tried to include in the 2019 Constitution without success – or the possibility for gays to adopt or obtain non-profit surrogates. The rule regulates for the first time the visitation rights of grandparents over grandchildren and communication with stepfathers and stepmothers in situations of divorce and even the custody of minors by them when it suits the well-being of the child.
It also allows opting for separate property regimes for married couples and authorizes parents to choose the order of their children’s surnames, while expanding protection for disabled or elderly people, among many new rights.
But the strongest opposition to the Family Code from the beginning came from evangelical churches, which argued that the law was contrary to the “original family” ordained by God, that is, the union of a man and a woman to procreate children.
“The remarkable thing is that in the midst of such difficult conditions in which the referendum was held, with so much media campaign and on networks to politicize the issue and achieve what was thought would be a failure for the Cuban government, a 66 was achieved. % of favorable votes,” Francisco “Paquito” Rodríguez, a blogger and one of the first Cuban activists for the rights of the LGBTI community, told the HPD.
For Rodríguez, the “no” figures in some provinces “indicate that we must continue working in those places and go deeper to be able to direct educational work.”
The authorities did not disclose how many gay couples were married in the three weeks since the Code came into force on September 27 after its publication in the Official Gazette, although Rodríguez thinks it could be a dozen based on the information he received. It comes from the community and social networks.
“In 2007, the International Day for the Fight against Homophobia and Transphobia was celebrated for the first time in Cuba, it took 15 years to bring that fight to law,” Rodríguez said. “It seems like a long time for the life of an individual, however, as a historical period it has been an achievement.”
Andrea Rodríguez is on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezHPD