Miami Herald – Gay activists in Cuba demand that parliament respect their rights

Gay activists in Cuba demand that parliament respect their rights

Just days before Cuba’s second annual Gay Pride march on Sunday, gay rights activists demanded respect from Cuban lawmakers.

BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
JTAMAYO@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM
Cuban gay activists held a kiss-in demonstration and presented a demand for respect to the country’s parliament on Thursday, as they prepared for the upcoming island’s second annual Gay Pride parade.

Fifty people — mostly gay rights activists but also a handful of dissidents such as Guillermo Fariñas and Martha Beatriz Roque — signed a petition calling for civil rights and handed it to the National Assembly of People’s Power, said Ignacio Estrada, a gay activist and dissident.

“Our document calls on the Cuban government to fully comply with international agreements it has signed on human rights, especially those that apply to LGBT rights,” Estrada said after delivering the petition.

The petition also calls on lawmakers to launch an investigation of the Military Units to Aid Production, or UMAPs — hard-labor camps created by Fidel Castro during the 1960s to detain homosexuals and government critics — and requests trials for government officials responsible for the camps.

Activists are also demanding that authorities stop applying the vaguely worded crime of “pre-criminal dangerousness” to gays and instead investigate complaints of those who are beaten or fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation, Estrada said.

Estrada married Wendy Iriepa last year after she underwent transgender surgery. At the time, Iriepa claimed that Mariela Castro, Cuban President Raúl Castro’s daughter and head of the National Center for Sex Education, fired her from her job at the CENESEX for consorting with a dissident.

Estrada said three gay rights groups that are independent of the CENESEX — the Cuban League Against AIDS, the Open Door Foundation and LGBT Observatory — will stage the island’s second annual Gay Pride march on Sunday.

Before last year’s parade, Cuba didn’t allow the march, which marks the Stonewall riots against police raids in New York in 1969, saying that the demonstration wasn’t necessary on the island. Police detained a number of gay activists last year to keep them away from the march, but about 20 managed to join.

The march this Sunday will start at the Capitol Building, once home of the Cuban government, move down Paseo del Prado boulevard and end at the seaside Malecón, Estrada told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Havana.

The “Kiss-In for Diversity and Equality” at the Ramón Fonst sports arena was organized by Project Rainbow, which calls itself an “anti-capitalist and independent LGBT group,” to mark the Stonewall riots.

The group was founded last year by Yasmin Portales Machado, who is described in her blog as a mother, a feminist and a “critical Marxist.”

“With this public and affectionate action we invite you to make the LGBT community in Cuba visible,” the group said in a statement. “We are part of the nation.

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