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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 20, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 21
Mariela Castro leads IDAHOT demo in Havana
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Mariela Castro leads IDAHOT demo in Havana

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro and niece of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, lead a march through the streets of Havana May 16, to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT).

According to AFP news service thousands participated in the march, making it the largest LGBT event in Cuban history.

Mariela Castro is the head of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education, a member of the country's parliament, and Cuba's leading LGBT rights activist.

A number of US activists also took part in the march, including Freedom to Marry founder Evan Wolfson and Transgender actress Candis Cayne.

Mariela Castro said that same-sex couples should be given the right to marry 'just as heterosexual couples have' in order to protect their rights.

At last year's IDAHOT demonstration, she infuriated Cuba's social conservatives by including more than a dozen same-sex marriage ceremonies in the festivities.

'The Cuban people are prepared to advance themselves,' she said at this year's event.

'Thanks to President Obama, the restoration of relations between the US and Cuba allows people to travel and exchange ideas, and I am thrilled to now be one of them,' Evan Wolfson told Miami Herald reporters.

'I'm no expert and am here to learn, listen, and share ideas, including a better understanding of Cuba's pathway to the freedom to marry.

'Nearly 70% of the people of Latin America now live in a freedom to marry country. The Cuban people deserve no less.'

He added he plans to meet with 'a range of Cuban leaders and advocates, fellow conference attendees, LGBT activists and supporters, and our U.S. Ambassador and the Embassy team' during his trip.

The Cuban government decriminalized same-sex relations in 1979, allowed Trans people to change their gender markers in 2008, and passed workplace nondiscrimination laws in 2013, but LGBT Cubans still lack other legal protections.

In a 2010 interview with the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, Fidel Castro apologized from his government's previous persecution of LGBT and HIV-positive Cubans.

It was 'a great injustice, great injustice!' Castro said. 'If anyone is responsible, it's me.... We had so many and such terrible problems, problems of life or death. In those moments, I was not able to deal with that matter [of homosexuals].'

Fidel Castro retired as Cuban head of state in 2008, and as leader of the country's Communist Party in 2011 due to illness and old age. He was replaced by his younger brother Raul Castro, Mariela's father.

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