Cubans voted in a landmark referendum on Sunday on legalizing same-sex marriage and adoption, allowing surrogate pregnancies and giving greater rights to non-biological parents.
According to electoral officials, almost 6 million Cubans (around 69% of eligible voters) voted in the referendum. Voting hours were also extened at some polling stations amid heavy rains from Tropical Storm Ian.
The final week of campaigning saw the government flood TV, radio and social media with pro-equality messages, along with glitzy billboards, public rallies and tweets from President Miguel Diaz-Canel urging Cubans to vote yes "in favor of democracy." However, the proposal has been criticized by Catholic and evangelical church leaders.
"Most of our people will vote in favor of the code, but it still has issues that our society as a whole does not understand," the president added on Sunday.
Years in the making
The official attitude toward homosexuality has changed significantly over the past 20 years after decades of persecution.
In 2019, the government sought to include same-sex marriage in the country's new constitution but backed down after criticism from the Church. The Conference of Bishops has once again come out against the current proposal.
More than 79,000 neighborhood meetings were held between February and April to facilitate a mass public debate on family rights. This resulted in more than half of the original text being modified, according to state media.
Political scientist Rafael Hernandez said the referendum on same-sex marriage is the "most important human rights legislation" in Cuba since the 1959 revolution.
Economic woes overshadow vote
However, the current economic unease may overshadow Sunday's historic vote.
Cuba's is facing its worst economic crisis in 30 years due to a collapse in international tourism and ongoing US sanctions.
"The issue is that many people will vote ... in protest or in loyalty to the government, much more than on content," Latin America expert Bert Hoffmann told the Reuters news agency. "And that would be a shame."
zc/wd (AFP, Reuters, AP)