Thousands call for gay rights in Cuba at symbolic marriage march
Thousands marched in Havana Saturday to support gay rights and to join a symbolic marriage ceremony organized by President Raul Castro’s daughter Mariela.
Waving Cuban and rainbow-colored flags, the marchers called for equality and marriage rights for Cuba’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, on the eighth National Day Against Homophobia.
“(We must) ensure that Cuban society as a whole is sensitive to these issues, is educated, and understands,” said Mariela Castro, a sexologist and leading LGBT rights activist.
She said the march was also a showing of “spiritual support” of gay rights in the communist island nation.
“We must continue to make noise and move these issues forward,” she said at the rally, where several couples held symbolic wedding ceremonies.
Gay marriage is illegal in Cuba, though Castro has long fought to legalize it.
One couple, Mimi and Ivon, took part in the symbolic union, presided by a Protestant pastor.
“I promise to be true and never allow another relationship to destroy the union that we’re forging,” said Ivon, gazing at her partner.
“Ivon, I promise to give you my loyalty and all my love, with all my heart before God,” Mimi replied, as crowds cheered the couple.
Reverend Cary Jackson traveled from New York to join the march and to show his support for Cuba’s LGBT community.
“We are blessed by God in our relationships, so we want to bless everyone here,” he said.
The buoyant crowd chanted “socialism yes! Homophobia no!” and marched to the beat of African drums.
Homosexuals in Cuba were formerly persecuted under Fidel Castro’s government after he came to power in the 1959 Cuban Revolution.
Cuban homosexuals were sent to labor camps in the 1960s, and continue to face discrimination despite efforts by Mariela Castro, Fidel’s niece, to change the policies of her uncle’s and father’s governments.
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