Cuba to hold referendum on measure opening the door for same-sex couples to marry and adopt

A crowd of people gather in the Prado avenue in Havana, Cuba holding up LGBTQ+ rainbow pride flags as well as the flag of Cuba

Cuba’s government announced a referendum on whether to adopt a new family code that could open the door for same-sex couples to marry and adopt. 

The national assembly approved Friday (22 July) a mass update of its family law which aimed at ensuring greater women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and increased protections for children. 

The new laws will extend marriage rights to LGBTQ+ couples and allow adults other than biological mothers and fathers of children to be recognised as parents, the Washington Post reported. 

While presenting the code for the national assembly vote, Cuban justice minister Oscar Silvera Martínez said the measure promoted “love, affection, care, sensitivity, respect for others and the harmony of our families”, Reuters reported. 

Martínez took to Twitter after the parliament approved the decision to hold the referendum, describing the vote as a “historic day”. 

Cuban Justice Minister Oscar Silvera Martínez welcomed the decision to hold the referendum, describing Friday’s vote in parliament as “a historic day.”

“It is the result of a lot of work and, in particular, the contribution of our people,” he wrote and urged Cubans to vote for the measure. 

Cuban votes in 2019 approved a draft of their country’s new constitution that banned discrimination on gender. However, the government later removed a marriage equality amendment before the referendum. 

Though, the current constitution defines marriage as a “social and legal institution” rather than a “union between a man and a woman”. 

The changes to the new families code, which will approve the right to same-sex marriage among other rights, will need more than 50 per cent of votes to pass into law.

Ria Acosta Cruz and Gabriela Alfonso, a same-sex couple living in Havana, told Reuters it was their human right to be able to get married and adopt children. 

“The opportunity it gives us is that of marriage,” Alfonso said. “The fact of being able to opt together for certain things and certain legal procedures that we need as a couple and not as independent people.”

Acosta added they are a “marriage” as the queer couple have built a life together, but they want to have their relationship and future family legally recognised. 

“We have the plans together, the economy together,” she said. “It is not fair that this possibility does not exist.”

The new families code was put to public consultation earlier this year where officials said 62 per cent of Cubans were in favour of the changes. 

However, this was lower than previous referendums. The new constitution was approved with 86 per cent of the vote in 2019, and some policy proposals in previous referendums received the support of around 95 per cent of voters.