MIAMI – While same-sex sexual activity remains a criminal offense in seven countries in the Caribbean, Cuba is moving closer to legalizing same-sex marriage.
Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have a history of criminalizing same-sex couples. The days when the Cuban government forced gay men to work in labor camps in the 1960s are long gone.
Cuba's National Assembly voted unanimously to approve a constitution that defines marriage as "the consensual union of two people, regardless of gender."
The measure will be on referendum in months, so in a country criticized for a lack of freedom of expression there is an open debate about whether or not the LGBTQ community should have this legal right.
Before the historic vote on Sunday, a group of evangelical churches released a letter saying “marriage is exclusively the union of a man and a woman. They also released posters saying " I am in favor of the original design. The family as God created it."
Former President Raul Castro's daughter Mariela Castro, the director of the National Center for for Sex Education, is running is running an education campaign with the help of leaders of the LGBTQ community.
Despite the changes, some members of the LGBTQ community say Cuba is far from being a gay friendly country. Victor Manuel Dueñas, who is a member of the Pentecostal Church and the founder of a community center in the Cuban municipality of Santo Domingo, left the island for the Netherlands in search of more freedom.
"The new constitution doesn't protect freedom of expression in all of its aspects, or multiparties or the possibility to elect the president of the republic," Duenas wrote on Facebook.
Here is the list of the other changes included in the new draft of the constitution:
- Recognizes private property
- Recognizing the presumption of innocence in the judicial system.
- The creation of the role of prime minister
- Age and term limits for the presidency.