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by Newscenter Staff
Posted: March 27, 2008 – 5:00 pm ET

 (Havana) Cuban lawmakers will vote in June on a bill that would make
 the country one of the world’s most progressive in LGBT civil rights.

 The draft legislation would make it illegal to discriminate in jobs
 and housing against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transpeople. It
 would recognize same-sex domestic partnerships, although not grant
 marriage or adoption rights, and it would allow transsexuals to have
 identity cards showing their true sex. In addition the bill would
 require the government health service to pay for sex reassignment

 The measure has been championed by Mariela Castro, the daughter of
 Cuban president Raul Castro. She heads the government-funded National
 Centre for Sex Education and has been a longtime LGBT rights advocate.

 Mariela Castro said she would have liked to have had the bill include
 marriage but she and LGBT leaders believed it would be met with
 opposition and could jeopardize the bill.

 ‘A lot of homosexual couples asked me to not risk delaying getting the
 law passed by insisting on the word marriage,’ she told the BBC.

 ‘In Cuba marriage is not as important as the family and at least this
 way we can guarantee the personal and inheritance rights of
 homosexuals and transsexuals.’

 Last month Cuba’s Culture Minister Abel Prieto said that he supports
 gay marriage.

 Gays have had a long struggle for recognition in Cuba

 There are no gay clubs in Havana, although one bar does offer a weekly
 ‘gay night’.

 Prior to the Castro revolution gays were regularly rounded up and
 jailed. Even after the revolution many gays were sent to forced labor
 camps for ‘re-education and rehabilitation.’

 The camps were abandoned in a few years but gays often were denied
 jobs and in the 1980s, there were government orchestrated mass rallies
 denouncing homosexuality.