LGBTQ rights activists in Cuba celebrated on Saturday after the Assembly voted to enshrine equal marriage in the new draft charter.
Cuba’s legislature, the National Assembly of People’s Power, debated a draft for a new constitution this weekend that saw delegates endorse a number of far-reaching changes for the country. From marriage equality to shifting the goalposts of socialist development, the meeting saw spirited debate on a range of issues.
LGBTQ rights activists in Cuba celebrated on Saturday after the Assembly voted to enshrine equal marriage in the new draft charter. Under a new definition, marriage will now be recognized as “a consensual union between two people without distinction of sex,” in a landmark decision. Previously, Cuba’s constitution only recognized marriage as between a woman and a man. The proposed change in marriage law was one of the most hotly debated items during constitutional discussions.
However, State Council secretary Homero Acosta said: “I believe that our project’s standards for equality, justice, and humanism are reinforced by the possibility of marriage between two people. There are around 24 countries that have this concept incorporated, and we cannot turn our back on this issue when we are shaping the constitution.”
It was welcomed as a victory for equal rights in Cuba with Mariela Castro having led a campaign for the adoption of same-sex marriage. Speaking earlier this year, she praised new Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel for his “sensibilities and awareness” on LGBTQ issues.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in Cuba in 1979. However, there were few protections for LGBTQ people in the country’s legislation and no rights for same-sex couples.
LGBTQ rights activist Francisco Rodriguez welcomed the move, saying it would be “the open door to be able to make advances in the legalization of homosexual couples.” A further proposal from Mariela Castro to extend adoption rights to all couples, regardless of gender, was not endorsed, however.
A number of international media outlets are also reporting that the new draft constitution approved by the Assembly has omitted the term “communism” from the preamble, dropping the long-term goal found in the country’s 1976 constitution.
During debate on the floor, one delegate raised the question of why the draft document only speaks of socialism, whereas Article 5 of the previous constitution discussed socialism as a point on the road toward communist society.
According to a report in Granma, the newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, Esteban Lazo Hernández, president of the National Assembly, responded that “it is important to remember that there were many things in 1976 that were different, that the country lived another situation, as well as the world.”
Lazo elaborated: “Then came the destruction of the socialist camp and everything else we knew.” He said that in surveying the constitutional draft, assembly members had to take account of the Sixth and Seventh Congresses of the Communist Party, which laid out a path for extensive economic reform—including the legalization of private property, another innovation found in the new draft.
Under the preliminary draft, the country continues to recognize the Communist Party as the leading force governing society and the state. It reaffirms Cuba’s commitment to a socialist economy and, while granting legitimacy to private property and market relations, it still positions publicly-owned companies as the central actors in the national economy. State-owned firms, however, are to be granted greater autonomy to make production decisions within the bounds of the national economic plan.Referring to the party’s re-envisioning of Cuba’s socialist project along market lines, Lazo responded further: “In this parliament, we approve the conceptualization of our model [proposed at the party congresses]…and there [in the congress documents] we do not raise the communist word…. That does not mean that we renounce our ideas, but in our vision, we think of a socialist, sovereign, independent, prosperous and sustainable country.”
For its part, Granma declared, “socialism is irrevocable, and Cuba will never return to capitalism.”
Among other changes endorsed by the Assembly were the creation of the post of prime minister, the introduction of term limits for the head of state, and an explicit encouragement of increased foreign investment in the country.
The full text of the draft constitution has not yet been published, but it now goes to the full Cuban population for discussion and debate this fall. It will eventually be subject to a referendum vote of the Cuban people.
Top Photo | Miguel Diaz-Canel, center, speaks with a woman as he waits with voters at a polling station during elections for national and provincial representatives for the National Assembly in Santa Clara, Cuba, March 11, 2018. (AP/Ramon Espinosa)