LGBT Activist Mariela Castro Allegedly Denied Entry by U.S.

After years of pushing for greater LGBT rights, Cuba's Mariela Castro was to be honored by Equality Forum.

BY Diane Anderson-Minshall

April 27 2013 11:28 AM ET

Mariela Castro (center) marches with others during the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in 2010

Equality Forum, the national LGBT organization based in Philadelphia, Penn., says that the U.S. government has refused to allow Mariela Castro, an LGBT activist and daughter of Cuba's president Raúl Castro, to enter the U.S. to participate in its annual event. According to Michael K. Lavers of the Washington Blade, Equality Forum's executive director, Malcolm Lazin, said that the younger Castro, who is executive director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education, was to speak on a panel on May 4 and accept an award at the group’s annual dinner later that same day at the National Museum of American Jewish History. She accepted the invitation several months ago.

According to Lazin, while the State Department issued a visa to Castro that allows her to attend meetings at the United Nations in New York, it refused to allow her to travel to Philadelphia to attend Equality Forum, which will highlight Cuba this year.

“Over the past 11 years, Equality Forum has invited leaders of the featured nation to attend. For those who needed a visa, all past visas have been approved,” Lazin wrote in a press release. “It is shocking that our State Department would deny Ms. Castro travel to a civil rights summit — especially one held in the birthplace of our democracy that enshrines freedoms of speech and assembly.”

Castro was behind lobbing the Cuban government to cover the cost of gender reassignment surgery under the country's national health care system, lobbied for greater rights for LGBT citizens, marched in numerous trans and gay parades, and pushed for more health care access and reduction of stigma against people with HIV/AIDS.

Lavers reports that she was allowed to appear on a panel with  Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in New York in 2012.

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