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Cubans March Against Homophobia In Havana

Source: Ernesto Mastrascusa / Getty

It looks like we have plenty of positive changes to look forward to in Cuba this year.

Mariela Castro, a Cuban lawmaker, and daughter of Communist president Raul Castro appeared at a press conference kicking off a week of events leading up to Havana’s annual march against homophobia and transphobia. She announced that she will push for same-sex marriage to be included in a constitutional reform process expected to begin in July.

Mariela has been a longtime advocate for LGBTQ+ rights in Cuba and currently serves as director for National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), a Havana-based LGBTQ advocacy and educational organization. She also leads the annual march against homophobia and transphobia in Havana, and her activism was even showcased in a 2016 HBO documentary, Mariela Castro’s March: Cuba’s LGBT Revolution.

Cuba’s constitutional reform is likely to reflect a wide range of modernizing changes to the original 1976 constitution, which was designed with a Soviet-style command economy in mind. The government has slowly been making market reforms and encouraging more interaction with the global economy since Raul took over his brother Fidel’s post as president.

Their move to legalize same-sex marriage comes after a long, violent history of oppressing LGBTQ+ people. Accounts detail stories of street roundups of gay men and imprisonment in forced labor camps. While many of the explicitly anti-gay policies have ended, queer and trans people still face social stigma. Cuba also named a new president last month, Miguel Díaz-Canel and many are hopeful he will be more supportive of LGBTQ+ rights than previous leaders.

“Mariela Castro’s recent statement suggests that she sees this as a time of transition that gives her an opening to press the CENESEX’s agenda,” Michelle Chase, a professor of Latin American history at Pace University, said. “She is hoping to secure Diaz-Canel’s backing.”