Mariela Castro Hub




Priests Bless Gay Couples in Symbolic Wedding as 1000+ LGBT People March Through Havana: VIDEO

Havana

More than 1,000 LGBT people marched through the streets of Havana, Cuba on Saturday in a procession organized by President Raul Castro's daughter Mariela, a longtime activist for equality.

RELATED: Want to Go to Cuba? 6 Tours Specifically for LGBT Travelers

The march included a symbolic gay wedding, The Guardian reports:

The couples held hands or embraced as American and Canadian protestant clergy members blessed them. It was part of official ceremonies leading up to the Global Day against Homophobia on 17 May...

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“Our family accepts us but society doesn’t,” said Raúl Orta, who “married” his partner of 13 years, Yaimel Medina. “If one us is no longer here tomorrow, the other one loses everything. That’s not right.”

The parade, with the beat of conga drums and the waving of rainbow-colored banners, gave gay Cubans and their supporters a rare opportunity to celebrate without fear.

Watch the BBC's report, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Priests Bless Gay Couples in Symbolic Wedding as 1000+ LGBT People March Through Havana: VIDEO" »


Cuba To Hold Symbolic Mass Gay Wedding

6a00d8341c730253ef01b7c6cf56de970b-800wiCuba will hold a mass gay and transgender wedding ceremony this Saturday as part of its annual gay pride celebrations. The ceremony has been organized by Mariela Castro, LGBT rights activist and daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro. The mass wedding will be symbolic as same-sex marriage and civil unions are illegal in Cuba:

Reuters reports:

"We can't do a wedding, but we wanted to have a very modest celebration of love with some religious leaders," said Castro, head of the National Sex Education Center and a member of Cuba's National Assembly. "In the future we'll see what more we can do."

The participating Cuban religious leaders will be evangelical Christians, she said. Cuba's predominant religion is Roman Catholicism.

The ceremony was inspired by the mass wedding of more than 100 couples at the World Pride event in Toronto last June, Castro said.

Castro said she also wanted other Cubans to be able to share the experience she and her husband had of a spiritual but unofficial ceremony blessed by a religious leader.

Castro has long been known as an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights in Cuba. Last year, she defiantly voted against a proposed labor code that would have offered protections based on sexual orientation but not gender identity. The move was seen as historic given Cuba's autocratic one-party system where consensus rules. 


U.S. to Begin Talks With Cuba to Open Embassy, Normalize Full Diplomatic Relations

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President Obama is set to announce a broad new range of changes to the U.S. Government's policies toward Cuba including talks to normalize full diplomatic relations and open an embassy, the AP reports.

The announcement was preceded Wednesday morning by the freeing of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, held in Cuba since 2009, CNN adds:

Gross' "humanitarian" release by Cuba was accompanied by a separate spy swap, the officials said. Cuba also freed a U.S. intelligence source who has been jailed in Cuba for more than 20 years, although authorities did not identify that person for security reasons. The U.S. released three Cuban intelligence agents convicted of espionage in 2001.

President Obama is also set to announce a broad range of diplomatic and regulatory measures in what officials called the most sweeping change in U.S. policy toward Cuba since the 1961 embargo was imposed.

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CNBC adds:

Obama plans to overhaul Cuba's policy while Cuba plans to free 53 political prisoners and to allow U.S. debit and credit cards, Dow Jones reported.

General tourism will still not be allowed but some travel restrictions will be eased for the purposes of making it easier for Americans to do business there.

Some of the other changes, according to CNN:

In an effort to boost the nascent Cuban private sector, the President will also allow expanded commercial sales and exports of goods and services to Cuba, particularly building materials for entrepreneurs and private residences, and allow greater business training, as well as permit greater communications hardware and services to go to the island.

Other announced changes permit U.S. and Cuban banks to build relationships and travelers to use credit and debit cards. U.S. travelers will be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods from Cuba, including $100 in alcohol and tobacco -- even Cuban cigars. Remittances by Americans to their families back in Cuba will also be increased to approximately $2,000 per quarter.

While only Congress can lift the decades-long full embargo, the President appears to be extending many measures which are within his power.

Many, of course, will be asking how the human rights violations of the Castro regime will be addressed during these talks. Just this week, on Human Rights Day, more than 100 and reportedly up to 240 political activists were arrested throughout the island.

Obama is set to speak about Gross and Cuba at 12 ET today. At the same time Cuban President Raul Castro will be giving a press conference about the policies in Havana.

A CNN report on Alan Gross, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Mariela Castro Votes Against Cuban Government, Voices Support For Transgender Rights

 

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Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuba’s president Raul Castro and niece of Fidel Castro, has made the first recorded vote against the government in a show of support for LGBT people, reports NPR.

Castro was behind the sixth International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association for Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Conference held in Cuba earlier this year.

The proposed update to Cuba's expansive labor code included explicit protections based on sexual orientation. However, Castro said that because it didn't also specify protections for people based on their gender identity and HIV status, it was inconsistent with her beliefs.

It is thought to be the first time that a government bill has been voted against.

However, according to LGBTI News, Baruch College Latin American studies professor Ted Henken said that Castro’s vote “is more a sign of what Mariela can get away with than a sign of what your everyday parliamentarian can get away with.”


Cuba to Host International LGBT Conference Despite Criticism Over Human Rights Violations

ILGALAC

Next week Cuba will host the sixth International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association for Latin America and the Caribbean (ILGALAC) Regional Conference.

This will be the Communist country’s first time to host an international LGBT conference, a realization that isn’t sitting well with some who feel the conference shouldn’t take place in a country with such a lengthy record of human rights violations.

The Washington Blade reports:

CastroMariela Castro Espín, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro who is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX,) is president of the local committee that organized the ILGALAC conference.

Mariela Castro did not return the Washington Blade’s request for comment. CENESEX’s website prominently features information about the ILGALAC conference that includes a preliminary agenda.

“As the host country for the sixth ILGALAC Regional Conference, Cuba is not exempt from the problems of the region’s LGBTI communities,” states the organization. “The humanistic nature of the Cuban Revolution has focused on the human being in his teleological purposes since its beginning. Although the Cuban LGBTI movement does not have the organization of other international movements, the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the country is now evident with more impact and achievements.”

Late last year, the Cuban parliament amended the country’s labor law to ban anti-gay employment discrimination. Many LGBT advocates also credit Cuba’s condom distribution campaign and sexual education cirriculum with producing one of the world’s lowest HIV rates.

Still, other argue Cuba’s less-than-stellar human rights record cannot be ignored

“Hosting a conference on LGBT rights is just another farcical attempt by the Cuban regime to pretend they care about anyone’s rights,” U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) told the Blade in a statement. “The sad reality is that the Cuban people are harassed, beaten and bullied for having a point of view that differs from the regime’s. This desperate move to seem tolerant does not even come close to obscuring the repressive reality on the island.

Ignacio Estrada Cepera, founder of the Cuban League Against AIDS, noted that the Cuban government forcibly quarantined people with HIV/AIDS in state-run sanitaria until 1993. Other LGBT activists in the country point to the forced labor camps to which the government sent more than 25,000 gay men and others deemed unfit for military service during the 1960s. 


Mariela Castro Leads March Against Homophobia in Cuba: VIDEO

Mariela_Castro

Mariela Castro led hundreds of people through the streets of Havana in a march against homophobia on Saturday, al Jazeera reports:

People danced La Rampa through the crowded city, chanting "Homophobia no! Socialism yes!" as they made their way through Havana for more than an hour. Cuba has previously persecuted homosexuals, particularly during the 1960s when being gay was outlawed and homosexuals were interned in work camps.

Mariela Castro said she is optimistic that the communist nation will eventually legalise gay marriage.

"What is most complicated is the time it takes to overcome prejudices," she said.

"We must change consciousness."

Watch a BBC report on the march and the situation for gays in Cuba, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Mariela Castro Leads March Against Homophobia in Cuba: VIDEO" »


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