Cuban president's daughter plans a symbolic LGBTQ wedding

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Cuban President's Daughter Plans A Symbolic LGBTQ Wedding

HAVANA, May 5 (Reuters) - Cuban gay rights activists led by the daughter of President Raul Castro plan a mass symbolic wedding on Saturday to promote acceptance of gay and transgender Cubans in a country once notoriously hostile toward them.

The ceremony will be part of an annual gay pride parade and will be symbolic because same-sex marriage is illegal in Cuba, Mariela Castro told reporters. She said it would also be low key because Cuban society is still uneasy about full rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

"We can't do a wedding, but we wanted to have a very modest celebration of love with some religious leaders," said Castro, head of the National Sex Education Center and a member of Cuba's National Assembly. "In the future we'll see what more we can do."

The participating Cuban religious leaders will be evangelical Christians, she said. Cuba's predominant religion is Roman Catholicism.

The ceremony was inspired by the mass wedding of more than 100 couples at the World Pride event in Toronto last June, Castro said.

Castro said she also wanted other Cubans to be able to share the experience she and her husband had of a spiritual but unofficial ceremony blessed by a religious leader.

Among those attending on Saturday are Roger LaRade and Silvia Gonzalez of Toronto's Eucharistic Catholic Church, which is independent of the Roman Catholic Church and took part in the Toronto ceremony.

Cuban gays have made great strides in recent years, largely because of Mariela Castro's political standing, but same-sex marriage and civil unions remain illegal.

Some public attitudes changed when retired leader Fidel Castro admitted in 2010 that he had been wrong to discriminate against gays, who were sent to labor camps in the early years after the 1959 revolution.

Cuba's National Assembly last year approved a labor law that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. But Mariela Castro voted against the law in an extremely rare and possibly unprecedented dissenting vote because the law did not also ban discrimination based on gender identity.

Cuba's one-party political system traditionally operates on consensus, which Castro said was one reason lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Cubans still lack full legal rights.

"There is a fear that this will tear Cuban society apart," Castro said. But, she said she believed it would not create a rupture. "It will create cultural and ideological enrichment." (Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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Cuban president's daughter plans a symbolic LGBTQ wedding
People watch the Havana Challenge regatta from the Malecon (coastline avenue, esplanade and seawall) in Havana on May 19, 2015. The Havana Challenge is the first regatta authorized by the US since 2004 and the first to be held after the announcement of the process of normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States. AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
A taxi driver shades himself with an umbrella as he watches a woman prepare to cross the street near Central Park in downtown in Havana, Cuba, Saturday, May 16, 2015. The private cabbie rests on his 1956 Cadillac Sedan De Ville as he waits for customers. He said he tends to work with tourists who need a driver for the entire day, for which he charges $50 dollars. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
HAVANA, CUBA - FEBRUARY 28: Tourists take in the sites from a double decker tour bus of Havana a day after the second round of diplomatic talks between the United States and Cuban officials took place in Washington, DC on February 28, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. The dialogue is an effort to restore full diplomatic relations and move toward opening trade. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - FEBRUARY 28: Vintage American automobiles are seen on the street as their owners wait for tourists wanting a ride a day after the second round of diplomatic talks between the United States and Cuban officials took place in Washington, DC on February 28, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. The dialogue is an effort to restore full diplomatic relations and move toward opening trade. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - FEBRUARY 27: People mill about as they enjoy wine, food and cigars during the closing gala night for the week-long International Habano Cigar Festival on February 27, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. The annual cigar festival attracted tourists from around the world to sample the islands world renowned tobacco. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - FEBRUARY 25: Tourists take a drive through the Revolutionary Square on February 25, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. The recent thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations has increased the number of American visitors to the island. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Tourists pose for a photo while sipping on a cocktail at the Bodeguita del Medio Bar frequented by the late American novelist Ernest Hemingway, in Old Havana, Cuba, Sunday, March 22, 2015. Tourists trying to dine at high-end private restaurants are often struggling to find an empty table these days, and it's practically impossible to get a room at Havana's best hotels. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
In this March 17, 2015 photo a musician carries his bass on a street crowded with tourists, in Havana, Cuba. Where foreigners see charming, historic architecture, bright 1950s-era American cars and vast stretches of white-sand beaches, locals see decaying buildings in need of repair, new vehicles priced beyond their reach and a lack of economic opportunity. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
A tourist takes a picture in the Hamel Alley in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, March 22, 2015. Where foreigners see charming, historic architecture, bright 1950s-era American cars and vast stretches of white-sand beaches, locals see decaying buildings in need of repair, new vehicles priced beyond their reach and a lack of economic opportunity. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
In this March 13, 2015 photo, tourists ride a double-decker bus backdropped by an iron sculpture of Cuban revolutionary hero Ernesto 'Che' Guevara on the facade of the Ministry of Interior in Revolution Square, in Havana, Cuba. Bookings to Cuba jumped 57 percent for one New York tour operator in the weeks after Washington said it would renew ties with Havana. In February, they were up 187 percent; and so far this month, nearly 250 percent. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
In this March 13, 2015 photo, tourists cross traffic lights in Havana, Cuba. Outsiders may romanticize the "time-capsule" nation, but many on the island are ready for change. Where foreigners see charming, historic architecture, bright 1950s-era American cars and vast stretches of white-sand beaches, locals see decaying buildings in need of repair, new vehicles priced beyond their reach and a lack of economic opportunity. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
In this Feb. 25, 2015 photo, tourists look for souvenirs at a shop in Trinidad, southern Cuba. The sense that detente will unleash an invasion of Yankee tourists and change the unique character of one of the world's last remaining bastions of communism is shared by many travelers flocking here. (AP Photo/Enric Martí)
In this Feb. 25, 2015 photo, tourists look for souvenirs at a shop also selling postcards and books on Cuban revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara, in Trinidad, southern Cuba. Already this year, more foreigners are roaming Cuba's cobble stoned streets. The country saw a 16 percent increase in visitors in January compared with a year earlier. (AP Photo/Enric Martí)
In this March 8, 2015 photo, a tourist gets out of a classic American car in Havana, Cuba. The Washington and Havana December announcement that they would move toward a historic rapprochement appears to have sparked an influx of tourism. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
Magnets for sale decorate a tourist shop, one showing an image of U.S. President Barack Obama smelling a cigar, at a market in Havana, Cuba, Monday, March 16, 2015. The magnet at bottom left reads in Spanish: "Here, nobody gives up," a popular quote attributed to Cuba's late revolutionary hero Camilo Cienfuegos. The magnets at top right shows Cuba's revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Tourists climb into the backseat of an American classic car serving as a taxi, in Old Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Jorge Gonzalez, dressed as Cuba's late revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara, poses for a photo in the street in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. Gonzalez, who studied metallurgy in college, takes advantage of his resemblance to Che by spending time downtown where tourists tip him for posing for photos. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Tourists enjoy taking photos at the Malecon in Havana, Cuba, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. After a half-century of Cold War acrimony, the United States and Cuba abruptly moved on Wednesday to restore diplomatic relations, a historic shift that could revitalize the flow of money and people across the narrow waters that separate the two nations. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Tourists rest and listen to a Cuban musician sitting on the wall of the Malecon in Havana, Cuba, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. After a half-century of Cold War acrimony, the United States and Cuba abruptly moved on Wednesday to restore diplomatic relations, a historic shift that could revitalize the flow of money and people across the narrow waters that separate the two nations. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
John Koehler, center, a tourist from Wisconsin taking a cultural trip to Cuba, poses for a portrait with locals while holding a copy of USA Today newspaper and showing its front page article on the softening of travel rules for Americans in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Cuba has so far offered a guardedly positive reception to President Barack Obama's loosening of the trade embargo on Cuba, saying it welcomes the full package of new economic ties on offer, but it insists it will maintain its one-party political system and centrally planned economy. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A street entertainer waits for tourists in Old Havana, Cuba, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. After the surprise announcement on Wednesday of the restoration of diplomatic ties between Cuba and the U.S., many Cubans expressed hope that it will mean greater access to jobs and the comforts taken for granted elsewhere, and lift their struggling economy. However others feared a cultural onslaught, or that crime and drugs, both rare in Cuba, will become common along with visitors from the United States. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
In this Dec. 19, 2014 photo, a tourist looks out from his hotel room's balcony in Havana, Cuba. In the past, people-to-people U.S. travelers could only go to Cuba under a license obtained by a travel company in a time-consuming process followed by lengthy government verification that travelers weren’t engaging in inappropriate leisure tourism. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2014 file photo, tourists take a ride in a classic American convertible car with the Cuban national flag painted on the trunk, in Havana, Cuba. American businesses have begun imagining ways to capitalize on last week’s announcement that the United States will restore diplomatic ties with Cuba and ease curbs on trade with one of the last surviving communist regimes. The opening to Cuba could benefit, among others, U.S. farmers, auto and tractor makers, airline and hotel companies and telecom equipment makers. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
A classic American car passes by a stall selling onions in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. After a half-century of Cold War acrimony, the United States and Cuba abruptly moved on Wednesday to restore diplomatic relations _ a historic shift that could revitalize the flow of money and people across the narrow waters that separate the two nations. The U.S. is easing restrictions on travel to Cuba, including for family visits, official government business and educational activities. But tourist travel remains banned. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
Tourists ride in a classic American car on the Malecon in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. After a half-century of Cold War acrimony, the United States and Cuba abruptly moved on Wednesday to restore diplomatic relations _ a historic shift that could revitalize the flow of money and people across the narrow waters that separate the two nations. The U.S. is easing restrictions on travel to Cuba, including for family visits, official government business and educational activities. But tourist travel remains banned. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
In this June 18, 2014 photo, taxi driver Moises Suarez pushes a radio knob inside a Soviet-made limousine taxi cab in Havana, Cuba. In a former life it was one of the "comandante's" cars: A fleet of black, boxy, Soviet-made limousines that for years were at the disposal of the presidency in Fidel Castro's Cuba. Today the limos have been decommissioned and repurposed as Havana taxi cabs, at the service of tourists who want a little slice of history to go with their ride across town. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)
A tourist takes a cab ride in a classic American car as the driver takes him past the Capitolio in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. After a half-century of Cold War acrimony, the United States and Cuba abruptly moved on Wednesday to restore diplomatic relations _ a historic shift that could revitalize the flow of money and people across the narrow waters that separate the two nations. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
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