Cuban Gays: Ignored Lives

February 11, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Cuban law does not recognize gay marriage.

Julio and Alberto loved each other.  And by mutual consent, they found a place to live together.  They both worked and shared the costs of their home.   Their case is not unique.  Possibly due to tolerance, or because homosexuals as a social group have been asserting and enforcing their rights, the fact is that the number of gay couples who are living together has increased in contemporary Cuban society.

However, there is an omission in the laws regarding the legal recognition of domestic or consensual partnerships. A situation not provided for in the Cuban legal system

As required by Article 18 of the Family Code with regards to recognition of non-formalized heterosexual marriages, Julio and Alberto maintained a committed relationship of a permanent nature, evidenced by  cohabitation and collaboration. However, the same legal rule excludes them, recognizing only “the marital union between a man and a woman.” A pedantic legalese that punishes two persons of the same sex who live under one roof.

Six months ago, at just 42 years of age, Julio died suddenly of a heart attack. As is the case with most Cubans, he had not bothered to plan for the disposition of his assets after death. His worldly goods were administered as an intestate estate.

Julio’s family began proceedings to enforce their inheritance, which included the common property that the deceased had acquired during his life with Alberto, who of course has every right to be extremely annoyed. The couple’s relatives were opposed to the relationship that the two maintained.

“They didn’t just put him down. They also excluded him from the family for being gay. It’s not fair that they now end up with what we were both building together,” said Gutierrez.

But Alberto has no legal avenue that would allow him to claim an inheritance. Nor is there any court to defend his rights, unless Julio had executed a will in his favor. Even if the family agreed to leave everything to Alberto, there would be no legal way that the estate of his life partner would become his property. Cuban law does not recognize gay marriage as an institution that carries with it the right of inheritance.

Nor may the legally recognized heirs waive their rights in his favor. First, Alberto is not entitled to inherit from Julio, in the absence of a family relationship. Second, relatives of the deceased can only disclaim in favor of their own relatives, to the fourth degree of blood-relationship and the second degree of relationship by marriage.

The case of Alberto and Julio is not the only one that escaped the legal deregulation and the lack of protection for individual rights on the island.  To illustrate for the reader, it is sufficient to ask the question “under what legal basis would  two homosexuals have access to the system of justice, to settle a division of property acquired during their life together, and not otherwise controlled by a contract?” The answer: none.

The main cause of this problem is that homosexuality continues to be a taboo for Cuban society and a problem silenced by the government. The issue goes through several thorny points where the authorities dare not carry the debate, in a macho society where they say “respect human rights.”

The case of Julio and Alberto moved many people, even to the point that they thought it was fair to recognize their rights of inheritance, and allow the courts to settle disputes arising from this kind of relationship. However, when asked whether they agree with the legal recognition of gay marriage or if gays ought to be given rights of adoption, they are not as forthcoming.

This shows how misunderstood and marginalized homosexuals are in Cuba. They are treated as defective and abnormal beings, not as people with a different sexual orientation. Not to mention that they still face harassment and contempt from the police, and the complete inaction of the government to raise awareness and protect the rights of these people.

The media do little or nothing to promote the tolerance that began after Mariela Castro’s father reached the apex of power. Their actions don’t go beyond putting on a parade one day a year. Confusing tolerance with permissiveness toward reprobate conduct has made this group vulnerable from a societal point of view.

In their eagerness to be noticed in a society that insists on ignoring them, homosexuals have become victims of drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, and a source of attraction for sex tourism.

Cuban gays, lesbians, transvestites and transsexuals, are still very far from the day when their rights are discussed in the corridors of power, as has happened in Spain and other modern societies. Representation in the highest organs of the state will never come while they are not recognized as a social group entitled to participate in the political life of the nation.

Relationships between homosexuals transcend the borders of religion and morality. Even what might be ethically right or wrong. A type of social relationship, which like any other, deserves to be protected by law. In this sense, the inaction of the government is absolute.

No more campaigns, parades, or symbols. Ignorance leads to lack of protection and this to violation of individual rights. Equality — social, political and legal — is a right of every human being. Gays in Cuba need rights that are supported. Not tolerance or pity.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by Tomás A.

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