On September 25, people in Cuba voted on a proposed referendum by the government to approve a new “Family Code” legalizing same-sex marriage and the promotion of women’s rights, according to Reuters. BBC News says that two-thirds of the Cuba’s population voted to approve the law, which includes the legalization of same-sex marriage, permits gay or lesbian couples to adopt children or have surrogate pregnancies, and codifies the equal sharing of domestic rights and responsibilities.
Many media outlets in Cuba were flooded with celebratory images promoting bill during the days leading up to the vote. Reuters further reports that the referendum was campaigned on radio stations and TV channels across the island, with billboards promoting diversity seen on the highways and streets of Havana. Rallies were seen across El Malecón, Havana’s famous oceanfront strip, calling for the legalization of the Family Code.
BBC News further reports the opposition to the reforms were expressed mainly by religious and conservative groups on the island. Leading up to the vote, the ‘Family Code’ underwent more than two dozen drafts and many hours-long community debates. Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel spoke as he voted on the day of the referendum, expressing that he expected most of the island’s population to vote ‘yes’ and that the Family Code represents the diversity of Cuba’s families, people and beliefs. BBC News adds that preliminary results on September 26 showed 66 percent of votes counted so far were in favor of the reform. Electoral Council president Alina Balseiro stated on state television that the law required a 50 percent of voters’ approval in order for the referendum to be implemented into law.
According to PBS Newshour, the law also allows broader rights for grandparents in regard to grandchildren, protection of elderly citizens, and measures against gender-based violence. The approval by Cuba’s National Assembly comes after years of debate on such reforms. President Diaz-Canel was a strong supporter of the bill, seen voting and speaking with reporters on the day of the reform. Several conservative and religious leaders on the island were also present at the polling stations, expressing concern or opposition to the law. Many expressed that their main concern was about the weakening of nuclear families in Cuba.
According to Newsweek, the referendum held in Cuba makes history in the island. Some have been comparing the recent vote in Cuba to its neighbor 90 miles north, the United States. The U.S. has seen many conservative groups call for a repeal of Obergefell vs. Hodges, the landmark Supreme Court case legalizing same-sex marriage. According to the New York Times, the new law marks a pivoting turning point in the island’s history, to a nation where for decades the domestic plans of gay or lesbian couples had been in wait.