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    ‘Love Is Now the Law’ in Cuba!

    By John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney–

    “Love is now the law” was the jubilant declaration of Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel on September 25 when Cuban voters overwhelmingly approved marriage equality as part of a larger revision of the country’s family law in a national referendum. The island nation is now the 34th in the world with the freedom to marry.

    It’s difficult to overstate the significance of this LGBTIQ rights victory. Years ago, in the first decades of the Fidel Castro regime, LGBTIQ Cubans faced widespread persecution and were forced into work camps for supposed “re-education.” The massive 1980 Mariel Boatlift, in which thousands of gay people fled as the Castro regime sought to rid Cuba of gay people, brought international attention to the repression. The personal experience of the boatlift was documented in famed gay Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas’ acclaimed 1992 autobiography Before Night Falls, which was also adapted into an opera and feature film.

    Following the recent vote, President Díaz-Canel proclaimed that “justice has been done,” and that passage of the new law helped “pay a debt to various generations of Cubans whose domestic plans had been waiting years for this law.” Díaz-Canel first supported marriage equality publicly four years ago in 2018 as “part of eliminating any type of discrimination in society,” noting that Cuban society had undergone a “massive evolution of thought.” He led the charge to pass the referendum, which in addition to marriage equality authorizes LGBTIQ couples’ adoption of children, provides for surrogacy, strengthens rights of women and elders, and calls for household gender equality.

    Fidel Castro’s niece Mariela Castro, a prominent queer rights supporter and director of the National Center for Sex Education, was also instrumental in marriage equality and LGBTIQ adoption rights becoming a reality in Cuba. On election night, Castro echoed Díaz-Canel in a tweet: “Now love is law on the island of freedom … . Long live the Cuban Revolution! Ratification of the most emancipatory, fair, and beautiful law in the world, which regulates family law.”

    Indeed, the victory makes Cuba the first communist country in the world with marriage equality, evincing that the freedom to marry and LGBTIQ rights do not depend on any particular political or economic system. They are a universal human right. Amendments to the Cuban Constitution in 2019 outlawed discrimination of any kind on the basis of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Cuba is now one of the leading countries in the world when it comes to formal LGBTIQ legal rights.

    We are cognizant that Cubans, including LGBTIQ Cubans, do not enjoy freedom in all aspects of their lives, and recently crackdowns on political dissent have intensified in the face of widespread anti-government protests. Some activists accuse the government of using the referendum in a cynical ploy to burnish Cuba’s international image on human rights at a time of increased political repression.

    We deplore political persecution in any form, but the notion that Cuba would use enactment of marriage equality and LGBTIQ adoption rights in a major breakthrough for queer rights to improve its international reputation illuminates how far we have come as a movement. We wish more nations would do the same.

    Some news outlets have also noted that government referenda in Cuba usually pass with 90 percent of the vote, indicating that 33 percent opposition was unusually high. Analysts attribute the opposition vote to evangelical Christians, Catholics, and some Cubans who simply wanted to register discontent with the government overall. But the fact that 33 percent of voters opposed the referendum suggests that the citizens felt free to vote their conscience and that a resounding two-thirds of Cubans truly embraced the historic change in favor of queer rights.

    Today, we salute all LGBTIQ Cubans and their supporters, some of whom gave their lives for freedom. We honor their strength and perseverance. There are few sweeter words to a marriage equality activist than “love is now the law.”

    John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney, together for over three decades, were plaintiffs in the California case for equal marriage rights decided by the California Supreme Court in 2008. Their leadership in the grassroots organization Marriage Equality USA contributed in 2015 to making same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

    6/26 and Beyond
    Published on October 6, 2022