Ignored Lives

Photo: Rampa and Malecón, a meeting place for gays on Havana nights, popularly known as Galapagos Island

Julio and Alberto lived together for over 10 years. They were monogamous, and jointly contributed financially to the costs of supporting and running their household. Their case is not unique in the community atmosphere of Cuban society. Perhaps it is tolerance, or because homosexuals as a social group have begun to assert their rights, but the number of gay couples who live together is increasing.

As required by Article 18 of the Family Code for recognizing non-formalized heterosexual marriages, Julio and Alberto maintained a committed relationship of a permanent nature, evidenced by cohabitation and collaboration. However, the same legal provision excludes them, recognizing only “the marital union between a man and a woman.”

Six months ago, at just 42 years of age, Julio died suddenly of a heart attack. The majority of Cubans don’t worry about giving instructions for the disposition of their property after death. Julio’s worldly goods were processed as an intestate estate.  His family started proceedings to enforce their inheritance, which included the common property that the deceased had acquired during his life with Alberto

“They didn’t just put him down. They also excluded him from the family for being homosexual. It’s not fair that they now end up with what we were both building together,” Alberto told me. But he has no legal recourse that would allow him to claim an inheritance. Nor is there any court that would defend his rights,

The only way would be if Julio had made 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 confers 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.  It is a legal requirement.

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 — on what legal basis would  two homosexuals have access to the justice system to settle a division of property acquired during their life together, and not otherwise controlled by a contract?” The answer: none.

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. But when asked directly — “Are you in favor of marriage between homosexuals?” — the response in the majority of cases is “no.”

Archive under: social chronicles, human rights, stories of Cubans, homophobia in Cuba, My Island

Translated by Tomás A.

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