Cuba drops same-sex marriage language from new constitution

Reversal comes after protests by evangelical churches and ordinary citizens in public meetings on the new constitution.

A collective taxi waits for customers in Havana, Cuba
Cuba's new constitution will be submitted to a referendum in February 2019 [File: Desmond Boylan/The Associated Press]

Cuba‘s National Assembly has said language opening the way to the legalisation of same-sex marriage will be removed from the draft of the country’s new constitution to “respect all opinions”.

A parliamentary commission responsible for drafting the constitution on Tuesday proposed to omit language defining marriage as the union of “two people … with absolutely equal rights and obligations” following protests by evangelical churches and ordinary citizens in public meetings over the matter.

“The Commission proposes to defer the concept of marriage, that is, to leave it out of the Constitution’s draft, as a way to respect all opinions,” the National Assembly said in a tweet, calling matrimony “a social and legal institution”.


Instead, the issue should be addressed in the family code that is set to be updated shortly after the new constitution has been approved at a referendum in early 2019.

The constitutional commission is headed by the head of the ruling Communist Party and former President Raul Castro.

His daughter, Mariela Castro, is a legislator known as Cuba’s highest-profile advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual rights.

The commission had in July unveiled the first draft of Cuba’s new constitution to update a Soviet-era one, including an article redefining matrimony as gender neutral. Homosexuality is a divisive issue in the island nation, and while many younger, urban citizens and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists welcomed the amendment, a majority of Cubans appeared to reject it.

The dropping of the gay marriage language comes despite the pledge by President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who assumed office in April, to “eliminate all kinds of discrimination from society”.

The new constitution, which has already won initial acceptance from parliament and will replace the 1976 constitution, will be submitted to the referendum in February next year.

In the draft, there is no mention of a communist society, though the document does reaffirm the socialist nature of the political system and the leading role of the Communist Party.

It also recognises the right to private property, the role markets can play and the importance of foreign investment.

The dropping of the gay marriage language is the third dramatic reversal this month for a government that for decades has issued most laws and regulations with little public debate or insight into the working of the Communist Party.

The government last week eliminated some of the most-disliked sections of new restrictions on entrepreneurs that were met with widespread public criticism. And tough new limits on artistic expression were delayed after protests and complaints from Cuban artists.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies