On Tuesday in Havana, Cuba, President Obama met with two LGBT activists, reports the Washington Blade.
The president spoke to a group of Cuban dissidents, including LGBT activists Juana Mora Cedeño and Nelson Álvarez Matute of the group Alianza Mano. A press pool report shows the president telling the group, “All of the individuals around this table have shown extraordinary courage."
“They have spoken out on behalf of the issues that they care deeply about," he said. "Some of them represent specific constituencies inside of Cuba. Some of them have broader concerns regarding democracy, the ability to speak freely, worship freely, or assemble or are advocating on behalf of democratic practices here in Cuba."
In a phone interview with the Blade, Mora said, “He listened to each part [of the group], including the LGBT community." Mora is known for criticizing Raúl Castro, the Cuban president, and his daughter, Mariela Castro, even though the latter has advocated for LGBT rights in Cuba as the head of the National Center for Sexual Education, reports the Blade.
On the same day, the president delivered a speech in Havana that covered the importance of gay rights. “There are still enormous problems in our society, but democracy is the way that we solve them,” he said. “That’s how we got health care for more of our people. That’s how we made enormous gains in women’s rights, in gay rights.”
This historic visit marks the first time Obama has visited Cuba. The U.S. and Cuba, which had severed ties during the Cold War, restored diplomatic relations last July. To commemorate the occasion, Richard Blanco, Obama's inaugural poet and a gay Cuban-American, had delivered a poem urging the nations to "heal together."
Same-sex marriages or civil unions are not legal in Cuba. However, in recent years, Mariela Castro has led campaigns against homophobia and transphobia. Mora considers Mariela Castro and her organization not representative of LGBT Cubans, and points out that the government has never passed a law favorable to LGBT people.