Karine Jean-Pierre
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Cuba Legalizes Marriage Equality in Historic Referendum

Yennys Hernandez Molina (left) and Annery Rivera Velasco got married in September

(CNN) — Cuba has legalized same-sex marriage after Cubans voted in favor of a family code that increased protections for minorities on the island, the country's National Electoral Council announced on Monday.

The Electoral Council said 74.1 percent of those eligible to vote in Sunday's national referendum had turned out to cast their ballot.

With 94 percent of the votes counted as of 9 a.m. ET on Monday morning, 3,936,790 had voted in favor and 1,950,090 against — signaling an overwhelming support for the new law.

The new family code extends greater protection to women, children, and the elderly, as well as allowing LGBTQ+ couples to marry and adopt children.

For decades, LGBTQ people in Cuba faced official discrimination on the communist-run island. In the early 1960s, after Fidel Castro took power, many gay people were sent to government work camps alongside political dissidents. Though homosexuality was legalized in Cuba in 1979, many gay men and women said they still faced open discrimination.

Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban president Raul Castro, has openly advocated through a government-funded center for improved rights for gays, lesbians, and transgender people. But the push for greater equality faced stiff opposition from both outside and from within the Cuban government.

In 2018, Cuban legislators abandoned provisions that would have legalized same-sex marriage amid fears that a homophobic backlash would have lowered turnout for a referendum to approve a new constitution. The following year, Cuban police broke up a peaceful LGBTQ rights parade saying the marchers did not have permission to hold the rally.

Cuba's growing evangelical community in particular had openly advocated against approving the family code. But in the weeks before the referendum, the Cuban government made a full court press in favor of the new family code across state-run media, arguing the new code is proof the island's now more than six-decades-old-revolution is capable of adapting to the times.

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Related: Setback for Marriage Equality in Cuba

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