A delegation of LGBTQ leaders from the United States, including Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith and Freedom to Work founder Tico Almeida, last week visited Cuba to join fellow activists for pride events on the island.
The U.S. activists met May 12-14 with LGBTQ people "who have petitioned the Cuban government to recognize equal marriage rights for Cuban same-sex couples and create legal protections for transgender Cubans," according to a statement by Almeida, a Cuban-American civil rights attorney with the law firm Quinn Emanuel LLP.
“Business leaders at our top companies like American Airlines, Google, and Facebook have helped build bridges between Americans and the Cuban people, and it’s also important for the LGBT movement in the United States to create stronger connections with the brave gay and lesbian Cubans who are petitioning their government for the freedom to marry the person they love,” Almeida said. “While we wait for the United States Congress to repeal the absurd travel ban that still restricts Americans’ freedom to travel to Cuba, we can participate in legal ‘people to people’ travel opportunities that allow us to meet with leaders of Cuban civil society and exchange ideas about promoting fairness and equality for LGBT people in both countries.”
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Almeida and Smith visited the island a year ago.
"Last year we began working with LGBT Cubans who have founded advocacy organizations that are independent from the government, and it’s impressive how with so few resources, they have launched a strong campaign to push the Cuban government to finally recognize marriage equality. Now Cuba is poised to debate the issue in their Assembly in July and we continue to look for ways to amplify the stories of LGBT people who are harmed by the current Cuban laws that outlaw recognition of LGBT families," Smith said.
"Updating Cuba’s laws related to family recognition is especially important to many Cubans I’ve met, including a committed lesbian couple who are raising children together without the protections of marriage equality," Smith said.
Cuban activists thanked the Americans for joining them in Havana.
"We are pleased by the participation of the Google company in our parade against homophobia and transphobia in Havana," said Cuban activist Lidia Romero in an email to the Miami Herald. "Our marriage equality campaign uses Google tools for pro-LGBTQ messaging. For example, we have published stories on YouTube of lesbian couples who have children and will benefit from equal marriage in Cuba. It was a pleasure to meet colleagues from Google "
Almeida described Google as "a strong ally to LGBT advocates across the globe."
"It’s great to see Google become the first international company ever to send a delegation of its LGBT employees to march in the pride parade in Havana,” Almeida said. “Google has undertaken important and historic steps in recent years to place its servers on Cuban soil to increase speeds for YouTube, Gmail, and other Google platforms, and faster digital tools are important for the brave Cuban LGBT advocates who are currently campaigning for marriage equality in Cuba.”
Said Smith: "LGBT entrepreneurs and activists have sent a clear message: Visit Cuba, support marriage equality and help improve the lives of everyday Cubans."