The Cuban people, voting in a national plebiscite on September 25, gave their approval to same-sex marriage and adoption rights for LGBTQ people.
The measures are part of a new Family Code, a set of laws that embodies Cuba’s revolutionary commitment, as it offers assurances that family life in the country will be characterized by equality, democratic rights and protection.
The Code is broad in scope; it extends to all aspects of family life and establishes principles and values to guide citizens in maintaining family relationships and the state in prescribing family life.
The new Code promises all Cubans the protection of democratic and legal rights in the context of family life, both existing rights and new ones, regardless of the sex or gender of the partners and members who make up the family.
According to the National Electoral Council, preliminary results showed that of the nearly six million Cubans who validly voted, 66.9 percent voted yes. The new Family Code was a holdover from a new Cuban constitution approved on April 10, 2019.
It is a revision of the Family Code contained in the Cuban constitution of 1976. The main impetus for a new one derives from the recognition since then, in the world and in Cuba, that the notions of sexual diversity and d equality of the sexes have developed.
The opportunity arose in 2018. A Constituent Assembly that year was undertaking significant changes to the 1976 constitution. In the process of crafting what became a new constitution, opposition to certain provisions of he draft of a new Family Code has emerged both in the Assembly and in public consultations.
On the table were the authorization of equal marriage and the authorization for homosexuals to adopt children.
The Assembly determined that the process “should be pursued further.” The new constitution ended with a provision for the subsequent creation of a new family code, then its approval by “attending the results of a plebiscite” taking place in two years. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the postponement of this plebiscite until September 25, 2022.
The resulting Family Code now definitively cements in law the right to same-sex marriage and the right of same-sex parents to adopt children.
The first article under the title “Marriage” in the final document – there are 301 articles under this title – states: “Marriage is the voluntary union agreed upon between two legally competent persons for the purpose of living a life together… “.
Similarly, the provisions relating to adoptive parenthood refer exclusively to “persons”. The message conveyed is that marriage does not necessarily require a man and a woman.
The government has made vigorous publicity efforts in support of the new Code. In nationwide televised remarks in the country on September 22, President Miguel Díaz-Canel called on Cubans “to participate in an action of enormous responsibility.”
Catholic clergy and evangelical churches organized opposition campaigns. The anti-government Havana time noted that in view of the plight in Cuba and the surge in migration, the Code was simply “Bla, Bla, Bla”.
The Code presented on September 25 was a 63-page document with 11 categories, dozens of chapters, hundreds of articles and 2,283 paragraphs.
Topics covered, all related to family life, include: protecting the rights of children, women, the elderly, people with disabilities and members of LBGTQ communities; arrangement for the management of property and money; duties and responsibilities, child adoption and custody arrangements; the special needs and rights of older people and people with disabilities and, finally, aspects of marriage, parenthood and becoming a parent.
The Family Code begins by defining the objectives. Among them are these:
- Strengthen the mutual responsibilities of family members to ensure the emotional and economic well-being of vulnerable family members, as well as their education and training.
- To establish love, affection, solidarity and responsibility among the highest family values.
- Improve gender equality within the family and strengthen shared responsibility for domestic work and childcare.
- Broaden the range of economic activities within the marriage to allow the autonomy of the spouses in making decisions favorable to their interests.
- Recognize the right of grandparents, other parents and other people involved with children to experience harmonious communications between all family members.
- Recognize the self-determination, preferences and equal opportunities of older people and people with disabilities within the family.
- Respect the right of families to a life free from violence and the need for preventive measures.
A statement of principles appears at the beginning of the document:
“Relationships that develop in the family setting are based on dignity as the most important value and are governed by the following principles: equality and non-discrimination, plurality, individual and shared responsibility, solidarity, pursuit of happiness… respect, interest superiority of children and adolescents, respect for the desires and preferences of the elderly and the disabled…”
The vast collection of established norms and precepts for relationships in all aspects of family life is consistent with the nature of a Cuban society that aims both to follow long-established principles of democracy and equality and to evolve according to new expectations for a just society.
With regard to the latter, the main driving force behind the development of a new Family Code has been the growing agitation for gender equality, women’s empowerment and gender-friendly arrangements.
Another important aspect of the new Family Code is the extraordinary process undertaken to shape it. Those responsible for developing it and obtaining its approval have done so in a manner that promotes the Code’s comprehensiveness and the full participation of the Cuban people in its development and evaluation.
The process testifies to the serious objective of the Cuban government, its dedication, its competence and its penchant for democracy.
Here is the story of what happened after the approval by plebiscite of this new Cuban constitution in early 2019. As noted above, the constitution provided for the development of a new family code over a period of two years.
The Ministry of Justice announced on July 16, 2019 the existence of a ad hoc working group that would start the task. The working group was joined by justice, health and foreign relations officials, United Nations experts, representatives of the Federation of Cuban Women, the National Center for Sex Education, statisticians and academics from the University of Havana.
The working group developed one version after another of a draft family code, and finally decided on version 20. The Council of State, on March 22, 2021, announced the creation of a commission to drafting composed of deputies to the National Assembly and representatives of popular institutions and organizations.
As a result of its work, version 22 of the draft code appeared on the Ministry of Justice website on September 15, 2021. Expert consultations followed, which took place between September 25 and September 15. October last year, involving representatives from 47 institutions, agencies, and organizations. Other changes have been made.
The National Assembly began discussions on version 23 of the Code on December 21, 2021. Once again, provisions have been modified and new ones added. The Assembly approved version 24 of the Code and submitted it to a popular consultation which took place from February 1 to April 20, 2022.
More than six million Cubans took part in the exercise, the result of which was that 49% of the contents of the draft code were modified. In the end, 62% of the Cubans who participated expressed their approval of the Code.
Finally, version 25 of the Family Code passed to the National Assembly and its approval took place on 22 July. Now the proposal has qualified for the September 25 plebiscite.
From beginning to end of the process, various review bodies and the consultation of the Cuban people modified hundreds of articles of the document and added new ones.
On display is a consistency of purpose, attention to detail, pursuit of perfection, and commitment to the Code’s goals that together signify dedication to Cuba’s revolutionary foundations. The causes of equal rights, equity and security for all Cubans, no one is excluded, have obviously not lost their appeal.
The socialist government of Cuba and Cuban society as a whole have pursued this project even as they face a crisis of survival. The latter, of course, stems primarily from the US economic blockade that has lasted for more than 60 years.
Clearly, Cubans approach the task of governing with a seriousness totally absent from the capitalist United States. There, things are left to Washington riders and dealers; lobbyists working to advance the interests of corporate payers; and homophobic, misogynistic and racist forces to cement divisions.