Cuban voters support liberalized family code

Cubans voted to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption and surrogacy in a referendum over the weekend, the communist country’s election officials said on Monday.

Preliminary results point to an “irreversible trend,” with almost 67 percent of the votes counted so far in favor of the government-backed change, Electoral Council President Alina Balseiro said on state television.

“The Family Code has been ratified by the people,” she said.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel tweeted: “Yes won. Justice has been served.”

The updated code represents a major shift in a country where machismo runs high and where authorities sent LGBTQ people to militarized labor camps in the 1960s and 1970s.

Since then, official attitudes have changed, and the government has conducted an intense media campaign in favor of the revision that will replace the country’s 1975 Family Code.

The new law allows surrogacy pregnancies as long as no money changes hands and legally recognizes same-sex adoptions and multiple fathers or mothers in addition to the biological parents.

It defines marriage as the union between two people and not between man and woman, while at the same time strengthening the rights of children, the elderly and the disabled.

“In the end we won!” wrote LGBTQ rights activist Maykel Gonzalez on Twitter.

“It pays a debt to several generations of Cuban men and women whose family projects have been waiting for this law. We will be a better nation from now on,” said Diaz-Canel.

– ‘Penal Vote’ –

According to the National Electoral Council, 74 percent of Cuba’s 8.4 million eligible voters cast a ballot, with 3.9 million valid votes in favor and just 2.0 million against.

However, turnout was well below the last referendum, when a new constitution was passed in 2019, with 90 percent of people taking part in the vote.

It is also the lowest percentage the communist government has received in a vote since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

Diaz-Canel conceded on Sunday that “for such complex issues, where there is a diversity of motives,” people could “cast a penalty vote.”

Before the vote, experts had predicted that many Cubans would use the referendum to voice their disapproval of the government.

Dissidents had urged citizens to reject the code or abstain from voting.

Cuban political scientist Rafael Hernandez said the passage of the new family code was “a powerful step towards social justice” and that it was the “most important” legal protection of human rights since the revolution.

A majority of 50 percent of voters was required for the law to pass.

The referendum came amid the country’s worst economic crisis in 30 years, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

It was the first time that Cuba had held a public vote on an issue other than constitutional amendment.

Most opposition to the law’s passage came from Protestant and Catholic churches, the latter of which denounced the changes as “gender ideology.”