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Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel has said he supports an amendment to his country’s new constitution that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.
“I defend that there should be no type of discrimination,” he told Telesur, a television station that is largely funded by the Venezuelan government, during an interview that aired on Sunday. “The will of the people and the people’s sovereignty will have the final word.”
A source in Havana told the Washington Blade the Telesur interview was broadcast on Cuban television on Sunday night.
Díaz-Canel took office in April after Cuba’s National Assembly chose him to succeed Raúl Castro.
Lawmakers in July approved the new constitution with the marriage amendment.
The Cuban government is currently holding meetings that allow members of the public to comment on the new constitution. The National Assembly later this year is expected to finalize it before a referendum that is scheduled to take place in February 2019.
The debate over whether to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples is taking place less than 60 years after gay men were among those sent to labor camps — known by the Spanish acronym UMAPs — after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.
Fidel Castro in 2010 apologized for the UMAPs during an interview with a Mexican newspaper. His niece, Mariela Castro, a member of the National Assembly who directs the country’s National Center for Sexual Education, over the last decade has spearheaded LGBTI-specific issues in the Communist country.
Díaz-Canel, who was born after the revolution, supported an LGBTI cultural center in the city of Santa Clara when he was secretary of the Cuban Communist Party in Villa Clara Province. Díaz-Canel also defended Mariela Castro’s doctoral thesis that focused on the integration of transgender people in Cuban society.
Independent LGBTI activists with whom the Blade regularly speaks insist they continue to face harassment and even arrest if they publicly criticize Mariela Castro and/or the Cuban government.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.