Cuban officials put gay rights on center stage

Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, and Ricardo Alarcon, president of the National Assembly, attend a ceremony marking the International Day Against Homophobia.

Associated Press

Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, and Ricardo Alarcon, president of the National Assembly, attend a ceremony marking the International Day Against Homophobia.

HAVANA — Cuba's gay community celebrated unprecedented openness — and high-ranking political alliances — with a government-backed campaign against homophobia on Saturday.

The meeting at a convention center in Havana's Vedado district may have been the largest gathering of openly gay activists ever on the communist-run island. President Raul Castro's daughter Mariela, who has promoted the rights of sexual minorities, presided.

"This is a very important moment for us, the men and women of Cuba, because for the first time we can gather in this way and speak profoundly and with scientific basis about these topics," said Castro, director of Cuba's Center for Sexual Education.

She joined government leaders and hundreds of activists at the one-day conference for the International Day Against Homophobia that featured shows, lectures, panel discussions and book presentations.

Cuban state television gave prime-time play Friday to the U.S. film Brokeback Mountain, the story of two cowboys who conceal their homosexual affair.

Cuba's parliament is studying proposals to legalize same-sex unions and give gay couples the benefits that people in traditional marriages enjoy.

Mariela Castro said gay activists should opt for subtle ways to chip away at deep-seated homophobic attitudes.

Defending equal rights for Cubans of all sexual orientations is a key principal of the Cuban revolution led by her uncle Fidel Castro, she said.

"The freedom of sexual choice and gender identity (are) exercises in equality and social justice," she said.

Cuban officials put gay rights on center stage 05/17/08 [Last modified: Saturday, May 17, 2008 11:03pm]

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