Cubans have approved a sweeping “family law” code that would allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt as well as redefine rights for children and grandparents, officials said, though opposition in the national referendum was unusually strong on the Communist party-governed island.
The measure – which contains more than 400 articles – was approved by 66.9% to 33.1%, the president of the national electoral council, Alina Balseiro Gutiérrez, told official news media, though results from some places remained to be counted.
The reforms had met unusually strong open resistance from the growing evangelical movement – and many other Cubans – despite an extensive government campaign in favour of the measure, including thousands of informative meetings across the country and extensive media coverage backing it.
Cuban elections, in which no party other than the Communist is allowed, routinely produce victory margins of more than 90% – as did a referendum on a major constitutional reform in 2019.
The code would allow surrogate pregnancies, broader rights for grandparents in regard to grandchildren, protection of elderly people and measures against gender violence.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who has promoted the law, acknowledged questions about the measure as he voted on Sunday.
“Most of our people will vote in favour of the code, but it still has issues that our society as a whole does not understand,” he said.
The measure had been approved by Cuba’s parliament, the national assembly, after years of debate.
A major supporter of the measure was Mariela Castro, the director of the National Center for Sex Education, a promoter of rights for same-sex couples, daughter of the former president, Raúl Castro, and niece of his brother Fidel.
There is a strong strain of social conservatism in Cuba and several religious leaders have expressed concern or opposition to the law, worryied it could weaken nuclear families.
While Cuba was officially – and often militantly – atheist for decades after the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro, it has become more tolerant of religions over the past quarter of a century. That has meant a greater opening to not only the once-dominant Roman Catholic Church, but also to Afro-Cuban religions, Protestantism and Islam.
Some of those churches took advantage of the opening in 2018 and 2019 to campaign against another referendum that would have rewritten the constitution to allow same-sex marriage. Opposition was strong enough that the government at that time backed away.