Editor’s note: Tremenda Nota is the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba. This article originally ran on the independent e-zine’s website in Spanish on Dec. 19.
HAVANA — Article 68 has been eliminated in favor of a less specific wording included in Article 82, which leaves open the possibility of legislating and consulting on unions and families in the future.
“The commission proposes deferring the definition of marriage, in other words, that it be removed from the draft constitution, as a way of respecting all opinions.”
The tweet, sent out on Dec. 18 from National Assembly’s official account, informed the public that Article 68, the most controversial of the future constitution, had been removed.
The original version of the draft constitution, approved in July, defined marriage as “the voluntary union agreed between two people with the legal ability to do so,” a concept that unleashed a campaign by several evangelical churches in defense of the “original” design of the family.
Without specifying how many people were for or against Article 68, Cubadebate revealed that Article 68 received more than 190,000 opinions from the electorate, almost 25 percent of all comments made on the draft.
“The majority proposed substituting ‘the union agreed between two people’ in place of ‘between a man and a wife’ as it is in the current constitution,” the website stated, without providing any data.
“Our population’s position has been magnificent; they have prepared themselves and contributed many ideas to enrich the debate and the draft,” Raúl Castro declared at the Cuban Communist Party (PCC)’s Central Committee plenary held on Dec. 13 to analyze the results of the “public consultation,” a few days before the parliamentary date set to approve the draft constitution.
The commission in charge of writing the draft, which was also headed by Castro, met in November.
During the meeting they agreed that modifications that would be proposed to the National Assembly and it is likely that they also decided to remove Article 68.
At the time a dozen evangelical churches had sent a letter to the PCC with almost 180,000 signatures opposing Article 68. This campaign had started in June with another letter calling on orthodox Communists to reject same sex marriage.
Mariela Castro, a member of the National Assembly and director of the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), which has attempted to integrate the LGBTI+ agenda into the official political discourse, criticized some Christian communities this week.
“Groups of religious fundamentalists are trying to blackmail the Cuban government by saying they won’t vote in favor of the constitution if the article referring to marriage between two people remains included,” she said in an interview published first on Dec. 17 in the Basque Country newspaper Gara, and later shared on the blog La Pupila Insomne.
“Well, they can vote against it; others are going to vote for it. We’re not scared,” she said defiantly before reminding the interviewer that “the state is obliged to guarantee human rights, which includes nondiscrimination, independently of whether the majority approves it or not.”
It was revealed on Dec. 18 that same-sex marriage would not be voted on, at least not for now.
Two years and another referendum to go to get married
Luis Ángel Adán Roble, a member of the National Assembly known for his speech in favor of Article 68 in the last session of Parliament, discussed its removal with Tremenda Nota.
Roble stated, “marriage is a social and legal institution. It is one form of family organization. It is based on free will and in equality of rights, obligations and legal capacity of the spouses. The law decides how it is constituted and its effects.”
He continues by recognizing that “a stable and singular union with legal capacity, that forms a real part of a project for a life together, that under the conditions and circumstances indicated by the law, generates the rights and obligations that [the law] provides.”’
In regard to the legislation that will finally define marriage he highlights the transitional provision in the draft constitution, which states that there will be a “2-year period” after the constitution comes into force, to make another public consultation and another referendum regarding the Family Code, where it should finally “determine the way marriage is constituted.”
Roble did not answer further questions by Tremenda Nota.
His colleague Mariela Castro denied that the new text is worse than the first.
“The new wording maintains the essence of the previously proposed Article , because it erases the gender binary and heteronormativity that defined marriage in the 1976 constitution,” she argued in her Facebook account where she also criticized Parliament’s tweet because “it mutilated the new proposal and with an inappropriate approach has thrown into the ring what many people see as a step backwards.”
Lastly she called on the public to support the modification: “Now let’s say YES to the constitution and then let’s close ranks to achieve a Family Code that is as advanced as the new constitution.”
Journalist Francisco Rodríguez Cruz, author of the blog Paquito el de Cuba, and one of the principal voices in LGBTI+ activism that is allied with the government, also declared himself in favor of Article 82 if it guarantees “more unity in the vote for the constitutional referendum, with an outlet that allows us to move forward.”
However, activist Yadiel Cepero, one of the promoters of the Action LGBTIQba, a platform that made several recommendations for the constitution, believes that eliminating 68 was the “wrong solution.”
“In a few months, when discussion is opened on the Family Code, the debates will be unleashed again, with a church that will know it’s stronger because it managed to get the state to back down to its pressure.”