Cubans voted to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption, as well as surrogate pregnancies, in a referendum over the weekend, the communist country’s election officials said Monday.
Preliminary results indicate an “irreversible trend” with nearly 67 percent of votes counted so far in favor of the government-backed changes, Electoral Council President Alina Balseira said on state television.
“The family code has been adopted by the people,” she said.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel tweeted: “Yes, it won. Justice has been done.”
The updated code represents a major change in a country where machismo is strong and where the authorities sent LGBTIQ+ people to militarized labor camps in the 1960s and 1970s.
Official attitudes have since changed, and the government has waged an intense media campaign in favor of a revision to replace the country’s 1975 Family Code.
According to the National Electoral Council, 74 percent of Cuba’s 8.4 million eligible voters took part in the referendum. Source: Getty / (Photo by YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images)
The new code allows surrogacy as long as no money changes hands, and legally recognizes same-sex adoptions as well as multiple fathers or mothers in addition to biological parents.
It defines marriage as a union between two people, not a union between a man and a woman, while strengthening the rights of children, the elderly and the disabled.
“We won in the end!” – Michael Gonzalez, an activist for LGBTIQ+ rights, wrote on Twitter.
“He owes several generations of Cuban men and women whose family projects anticipated this law. From now on, we will become a better nation,” said Mr. Diaz-Canel.
The “most important” protection of human rights since the revolution
According to the National Electoral Council, 74 percent of Cuba’s 8.4 million eligible voters cast their ballots, out of 3.9 million valid votes counted so far, in favor and only two million against.
The turnout, however, was significantly lower than the last referendum when a new constitution was adopted in 2019, with 90 percent of people voting.
It is also the lowest percentage received by a communist government in a vote since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.
Mr Díaz-Canel admitted on Sunday that “for such complex issues where there is a diversity” of motives, people could “vote for punishment”.
Experts predicted before the vote that many Cubans would use the referendum as a means to express their disagreement with the government.
Dissidents called on citizens to reject the code or abstain.
A man salutes after voting at a polling station during the referendum on the new Family Code. Source: Getty / (Photo by YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images)
Cuban political scientist Rafael Hernández called the adoption of the new family code “an effective step in the direction of social justice” and that it is the “most important” legal protection of human rights since the revolution.
The law required the approval of 50 percent of voters.
The referendum took place against the background of the country’s worst economic crisis in 30 years, which was worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.
It was the first time that an issue other than constitutional change had been put to a public vote in Cuba.
Protestant and Catholic churches opposed the adoption of the law, the latter called the changes “gender ideology”.