Cuba has voted overwhelmingly to legalize same-sex marriage, with nearly three-quarters of all eligible voters turning out for Sunday’s national referendum as the island nation prepared for Hurricane Ian.
The referendum, which overhauls Cuba’s family code, includes greater protections for women, children and the elderly, while allowing LGBTQ couples to marry and adopt children. The new code also allows surrogate pregnancies, gives greater rights to grandparents and provides measures against gender violence.
As of Monday morning, more than 66% of those who voted, or 3,936,790, approved the referendum with 33%, or 1,959,090, opposing it, according to Cuba’s National Electoral Council.
“Love is now the law,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel tweeted after the landslide vote on Monday.
“It is paying off a debt with several generations of Cuban men and women, whose family projects have been waiting for this law for years,” he said. “As of today, we will be a better nation.”
Many LGBTQ people have faced discrimination in Cuba, even though homosexuality was legalized on the communist-run island in 1979.
Cuba considered similar legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in 2018, but the government abandoned plans for a referendum over fears of anti-gay backlash.
Leading up to Sunday’s vote, the measure faced opposition from lawmakers and organizations outside the government, including the growing evangelical movement.
“I think about 95% of Christians disapprove, but it’s not just Christians. There are communists who are not in agreement, materialistic people not in agreement,” evangelical pastor Yoel Serrano told CNN. “A lot of people who believe in different things that don’t agree with the changes they want to make with the new family code.”
Mariela Castro, director of the National Center for Sex Education and a promoter of rights for same-sex couples, was a major supporter of the referendum legalizing same-sex marriage. She is the daughter of former President Raul Castro and the niece of his brother, the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro.