By Isaac Risco (Photos: Juan Suarez)
HAVANA TIMES — Cuban activists held a symbolic “religious marriage” at “Gay Pride” day in Havana on Saturday, after a colorful parade led by sexologist Mariela Castro, daughter of President Raul Castro, reported dpa.
More than a thousand people participated in this year’s march, held for the eighth time this year, demanding work spaces “without homophobia or transphobia”.
Topping off the parade held the musical rhythm of a traditional Cuban “conga” this year organizers planned a ceremony in which interested heterosexual or homosexual couples could consecrate their “marriage” before Protestant religious authorities.
Around 20 activists symbolically gave the “yes” in the event supported by the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) led by Mariela Castro.
“We call them ‘holy unions,” said Reverend Roger LaRade who officiated several ‘marriages’ in the Cuba Pavilion center in the central Havana neighborhood of Vedado. LaRade is archbishop of the Eucharistic Catholic Church of Canada, which is considered itself Catholic even though they are not recognized by the Vatican.
His church celebrates such unions since the 90s, said Larade, who had left the Catholic Church for being a homosexual. The priest described the celebration of “gay pride” in Cuba as “very cheerful and full of life.”
The act “means a further step in our relationship,” said Luis Enrique Mederos, who celebrated his “religious marriage” with his partner of 14 years. With this symbolic act, “religious faith is acknowledging our love,” said the 47-year- old graphic designer.
“We’ve been through so much to get to today,” said his partner, Alain Morales. The worker, 38, from Cuba’s emerging private sector, said they both have always defended their rights on the island, which for years now has been opening to the defense of the rights of homosexuals.
The changes and the religious union held today encourage us in the “hope that one day we can be united in a legalized relationship,” said the optimistic Mederos.
This year’s parade was larger than in the past. Mederos emphasized that the situation for sexual minorities in Cuba has improved in recent years, although the island has not yet legalized “gay marriage,” as they have done in some other countries on the continent.
For many years the Cuban Parliament has sat on a reform proposal of the Family Code to allow gay marriage, put forth by Mariela Castro.
The daughter of the president drew attention last year after revelations that she voted against the new Labor Code in the National Assembly in late 2013, because she felt that the law did not go far enough in defending homosexuals, lesbians and transsexuals.
Mariela said on Saturday that perhaps she had been a little “romantic” to expect profound legal changes so quickly, but was confident that the country would do so in the future.
“Perhaps I was a bit romantic, but that’s not so bad because you set goals,” Mariela Castro told reporters. “We’ve been ahead of what the general population has been able to understand,” she said. As in other countries in Latin America, in Cuba the model of a patriarchal society has dominated.
Homosexuals were discriminated against socially and interned in labor camps during the first decades of the revolution led by Fidel Castro since 1959..
“The biggest obstacle still present in Cuban society is the retrograde sexism” said Luis Enrique Mederos, who also asked “that has the draft Family Code” reform supported by Mariela Castro be taken up by the parliament.
Mariela said this week that the idea of religious unions during the parade came after she saw the “group marriage” during a visit to Toronto. She said she liked the idea of such acts for their “spiritual component” and culture “of peace and respect.”
This year’s May campaign in Cuba against homophobia is focusing on labor rights of gay and transgender communities. It includes various events and conferences in the Cuban capital and in the province of Las Tunas, in the east of the country, from May 5-23.
Click on the thumbnails below to view all the photos in this gallery. On your PC or laptop, you can use the directional arrows on the keyboard to move within the gallery. On cell phones use the keys on the screen.