Cuba is changing -- not just in its improving relations with the U.S., but with its growing embrace of LGBT rights. The island nation will host a mass commitment ceremony for same-sex couples Saturday, with evangelical Christian ministers participating.
The event is being put together by Mariela Castro, who heads up the National Sex Education Center and is the daughter of president Raul Castro. The younger Castro has made HIV activism and LGBT rights a top priority; she first campaigned for transgender rights more than a decade ago, before most Western officials paid any attention to the subject. A member of Cuba's National Assembly, Mariela Castro actually voted against a new law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation because it didn't cover gender identity.
Though Cuba does not offer marriage equality or civil partnerships yet, it appears to be moving in that direction. The mass symbolic wedding is a nod to the nation's same-sex couples, Mariela Castro told Reuters.
"We can't do a wedding, but we wanted to have a very modest celebration of love with some religious leaders," Castro told the news agency. "In the future we'll see what more we can do."
LGBT Cubans were also encouraged by the 2010 admission of former president Fidel Castro that he was wrong to imprison gays in the 1950s and '60s.