Tuesday 27 September 2016

Cuba leader's daughter sponsors mass gay 'wedding' in dramatic sign of the changing face of the island

Philip Sherwell, New York

Published 12/05/2015 | 12:10

Gay rights activists lift a rainbow flag during the Eighth Annual March against Homophobia and Transphobia in Havana, May 9, 2015. Reuters/Stringer
Gay rights activists lift a rainbow flag during the Eighth Annual March against Homophobia and Transphobia in Havana, May 9, 2015. Reuters/Stringer
Rev. Roger LaRade, of the Eucharistic Catholic Church in Canada, blesses a gay couple as they lean in to kiss each other in Havana, Cuba, Saturday, May 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
Gay rights activists pose for a photo during the Eighth Annual March against Homophobia and Transphobia in Havana, May 9, 2015. Reuters/Stringer

The daughter of Raul Castro, the Cuban president, has sponsored a religious blessing ceremony for gay couples in a dramatic sign of the changing face of a communist island that had a long history of persecuting homosexuals under her family’s rule.

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Mariela Castro supported the ceremony with visiting protestant priests from North America in a celebration that bore many hallmarks of same-sex marriage, a practice that remains illegal in Cuba.

More than 20 gay couples held hands, embraced and at times wept as the clergymen blessed them as part of the official Cuban ceremonies ahead of the Global Day against Homophobia on May 17.

 Ms Castro, an MP who heads the Centre for Sex Education in Havana, is the most prominent champion of gay rights in the country and led a colourful march by more than 1,000 campaigners waving the rainbow colours and Cuban flags along one of the capital’s main streets.

Under Fidel Castro, homosexuals were often jailed as “ideological deviants” while Cubans with HIV/Aids were at one time rounded up and held in camps.

But since handing over the reins of power to her father, Ms Castro’s uncle has said that his greatest regret about his time in power was the treatment of homosexuals by his regime.

In the ceremony, a crowd of about 300 cheered and applauded as pastors blessed the couples.

Luis Enrique Mederos, 47, said that he hoped the ceremony would mark a step towards the legalisation of gay marriage in Cuba after a Los Angeles-based pastor blessed his relationship with Alain Morales, his partner of 14 years.

Telegraph.co.uk

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