On Sept. 26, in a historic referendum, Cubans voted to legalize same sex marriage in a family code that includes measures that allow same sex couples to marry and adopt children. Approximately four million Cubans voted in favor of the measure, allowing the referendum to pass with a majority of nearly 67%. Voter turnout was nearly 75%, according to CNN.
The historic referendum also includes many new measures, including the allowance for surrogate pregnancies, new protections for women, children and elderly people, as well as protections against gender violence, according to the New York Times. Cuba’s National Assembly previously passed the legislation, but it still required at least 50% support from the referendum. This new family code replaces an existing family code from 1975.
The referendum marks a historic moment for the LGBTQ+ community in Cuba. During the leadership of Fidel Castro, homophobia was widespread. During the 1960s and 1970s, many LGBTQ+ individuals faced persecution, and some were even sent to labor camps. This referendum and new family code is the result of the work of LGBTQ+ activists, including Mariela Castro, the niece of Fidel Castro and daughter of Raul Castro.
Despite strong support, there was some opposition, notably from evangelical leaders and also some Catholic leaders. Although the referendum was passed with a strong majority, it was lower than past referendums, which have seen support as high as 90% or higher.
The referendum also coincides with Cuba experiencing financial difficulties, with long lines for food and other resources, according to Reuters. Additionally, the nation was also preparing for Hurricane Ian to make landfall.
Still many leaders, including Cuba’s President, Miguel Diaz-Canel, were excited about the referendum passing. In a tweet, he said, “Justice has been done. It is paying off a debt with several generations of Cuban men and women, whose family projects have been waiting for this law for years,” according to Reuters.