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Cuba to hold referendum on same-sex marriage

Gabriela Alfonso Perez and Ria Acosta, a couple, play in their garden with Ria's 2-year-old daughter Ivelle Acosta in Havana on July 13. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters)
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Cuba is to hold a referendum Sept. 25 on whether to adopt a new Family Code, in a move that could open the door for same-sex couples to marry and adopt.

On Friday, the communist state’s national assembly approved plans for a vote on the update, which is aimed at ensuring greater rights for women and children. The changes will require more than 50 percent of votes to pass, with Cubans living abroad able to vote a week before the date of the referendum.

In addition to same-sex marriage, the new laws will also permit surrogacy and allow individuals other than biological mothers and fathers to be recognized as parents.

Cuban Justice Minister Oscar Silvera Martínez welcomed the decision to hold the referendum, describing Friday’s vote in parliament as “a historic day.”

“It is the result of a lot of work and, in particular, the contribution of our people,” he tweeted, urging Cubans to vote in support of the changes.

Ria Acosta Cruz, 27, and Gabriela Alfonso, 23, a same-sex couple living in Havana, told Reuters that being able to marry and adopt were fundamental rights.

“We are a marriage. We have the plans together … It is not fair that this possibility does not exist,” Acosta said.

The text of the proposed law, which would replace legislation dating back to 1975, was put to public consultation earlier this year, with officials saying that almost 62 percent of Cubans were in favor of the changes. In previous referendums, however, policy changes had the support of more than 90 percent of voters.

The planned changes face opposition from religious groups, whose vocal objection prevented same-sex marriage from being included in a new version of the Cuban constitution in 2019.

During consultations on the changes to the family law earlier this year, Catholic bishops in the country said that “the majority of Cubans wanted the definition of marriage to be maintained as the union of a man and a woman, as it appears in the current Family Code of 1975.”

A number of other Latin American countries — including Argentina and Brazil — have already passed similar laws, while federal courts and a number of states in Mexico also allow same-sex couples to marry.