HAVANA – The draft of Cuba’s new constitution – which began to be debated on Saturday in Parliament – proposes that marriage be defined as the union between two individuals, thus opening the door for the legalization of same-sex marriage.
The current 1976 charter defines marriage as the “voluntary established union between a man and a woman,” thus impeding such a legal change.
Same-sex marriage rights would mark a huge step forward for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people on the Communist-ruled island, a society that is still very conservative in terms of sexual freedoms and where just a few decades ago gays were considered “social scourges” and sent to correctional labor camps.
The more than 600 members of the National Assembly of People’s Power on Saturday began debating the draft of the Caribbean nation’s new constitution, a text that does not contain the word “communism” yet does recognize private property rights.
The draft constitution only mentions “socialism” as a state policy, official media reported.
That is in contrast with the current constitution, whose Article 5 mentions “progress toward the communist society” as the state’s ultimate goal.
“This doesn’t mean that we renounce our ideas, only that in our vision we conceive of a socialist, sovereign, independent, prosperous and sustainable country,” National Assembly President Esteban Lazo said this week during preliminary sessions to study the proposed constitutional overhaul.
In defending the removal of the word “communism,” Lazo added that Cuba’s current situation and the international context are very different now compared to 1976, official daily Granma reported on Saturday.
Article 21 of the draft constitution, meanwhile, recognizes “other forms of property, such as cooperative, joint venture and private property,” and acknowledges that foreign investment is “a necessity and an important element of development.”
By contrast, the 1976 constitution only recognizes state property and the agricultural cooperative, in line with the communist state model that late leader Fidel Castro implemented following the triumph of his 1959 Cuban Revolution.
These changes are aimed at adapting Cuba’s constitution to the new economic reality of the island, where economic reforms carried out during the presidency of Raul Castro – Fidel’s younger brother, who stepped down earlier this year – spurred the emergence of numerous private businesses and alleviated the country’s endemic economic crisis.
In the political sphere, the draft text imposes term limits on the president, who will be able to serve a maximum of two consecutive five-year periods, and proposes the creation of the position of prime minister.
The draft constitution is expected to be approved on Monday. It will then be subjected to a national consultation process before being voted on in a popular referendum.