Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – Only 26 countries in the world currently allow same-sex marriage. And soon, after the new Cuban Constitution is (surely) approved, as well as a Law which they must be writing up right now, our county will join this avant-garde when it comes to human rights.
Because marriage is a social institution which originated and was meant to promote families under a legal framework (read here: procreation and protection), it was obviously conceived for people of different sexes. However, due to new concepts today and the ways that modern society centers on freedom and the diversity of sexual unions (especially homosexuality and the repercussions this has on “the family”), Cuba’s LGBT community’s struggle for marriage is one of acceptance, in search of equality, rather than it being a legal problem that can be resolved with getting a civil partnership or cohabitation agreement.
This is understandable in the scheme of them trying to gain greater social recognition for their rights, beyond whether marriage is a good thing or not or should also be reformed. Prejudice towards homosexuality in our Western culture was mostly introduced by Judeo-Christian influences. And because this history of two thousand years has created strong roots, it’s impossible to get rid of this as if by magic.
LGBT communities believe that couples of the same sex having the right to marry is a great step forwards towards equality. If they manage to get the law to not prohibit or make these unions impossible, if they aren’t outside of the law whether they choose to exercise this right or not, whether they believe in marriage or not, it will be easier to win greater respect and social acceptance. Plus, marriage is the institution that we have that protects property rights by establishing a “legal relationship” between spouses and also allows them to adopt children.
The fact that the Cuban government (whether we like this government or not) is concerned about being a part of the avant-garde on this issue of LGBT rights is admirable. At least when it comes to this right of marriage. For the sake of being honest, I think that this “progress” in such a complex matter for our society can only come about thanks to the ruling political and social system, which is imposed by the government.
I would dare to say that if we were living in a democracy, we would need a process that lasted at least a decade to achieve and the most obtained now would be a “civil partnership”. Our society has made great headway in accepting homosexuality, but not so much in accepting same-sex marriage and much less in the LGBT community’s ability to adopt children. There is still a lot of prejudice and religious dogmas that influence this too.
As a democrat, I have my reservations because I know that society’s real consensus isn’t being respected because the system that has been designed and used by our government doesn’t allow this. However, as an individual, in favor of same-sex marriage, I am glad that authoritarianism is at least giving us this social gain, another useful fruit among so many others that I believe to be rotten.
But, why is the Cuban Revolution being avant-garde in recognizing a recent right (that of same-sex marriage) and refusing to recognize individual and social rights that have existed for centuries, which are universally-recognized, such as freedoms of political association, speech, the press and business? And why are they doing this within the framework of a new constitution and not by making a one-off reform before, like Mariela Castro asked for when she ran into insurmountable resistance?
The Revolution’s historic leadership has always been thought to be homophobic or at least that they were reluctant to take on a modern view on this subject. Their confinement methods in the past at UMAP (labor camps) and homosexuals being excluded from the Cuban Communist Party’s ranks, until the ‘90s, seemed to prove this. All of a sudden, they are the avant-garde in a subject which isn’t widely accepted by society and they know this all too well! A subject which will still need time and efforts to create a change in the Cuban people’s mentality.
Therefore, it clearly seems to be a political strategy rather than any interest to recognize and accept a disadvantaged social group. The Cuban LGBT community won’t earn essential rights such as freedom of speech or freedom of association, just like the rest of the Cuban population won’t. They will be able to get married like heterosexual couples but they won’t live in a democracy.
All of this points to the fact that the country’s leadership wants to give this new Constitution (that is too similar to the previous version in nature, just much longer and clarifying, with one-off but not enough advances) a modern twist. Changes to the nomenclature for some positions and distribution of central power also form part of the same thing.
A strategy clearly directed at the world outside, to create confidence and lock in investments. They will lose the votes of religious and homophobic people on the island, which are quite a few. However, they know that the Constitution will still be approved anyway because the Cuban electoral system never fails. However, it’s pretty clear that it will receive a much lower approval vote than the 1976 Constitution did, which was voted in during a much more controlled time than now.