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Cubans voted in a referendum Sunday that would revamp family rights and legalize same-sex marriage in the communist country, a move considered the most progressive in Latin America and one that defies a long tradition of machismo in Cuba, the Washington Post reported.

The proposed new Family Code would replace a 1975 law regulating family rights and comes after 79,000 neighborhood meetings, months of discussion and an outpouring of more than 300,000 suggestions from citizens.

The new measures would offer protections for women, children and the elderly. It also encourages couples to equally share housework, condemns domestic violence and insists on children having a say in family matters.

One of the key changes would be legalizing same-sex marriage and allowing gay couples to adopt children.

The pro-LGBTQ stance of the new code underscores a sign of openness toward the gay community in Cuba. The country’s communist government was long openly hostile to the gay community, sending males to forced labor camps for “reeducation.”

Analysts noted that this shifting stance is peculiar in Cuba because it has been channeled mainly through the single-party system, rather than independent civil-society groups, which are heavily restricted.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel said this week that support for the vote would also mean support for the current political system in the Caribbean nation.

While the government has promoted the referendum as a democratic exercise, some detractors said that homosexual people’s rights should not be put to a vote. At the same time, many Catholic bishops and other religious leaders have strongly opposed the changes.

The referendum will need more than 50 percent of the vote to take effect. Although measures put to a plebiscite usually receive overwhelming support in Cuba, it’s unclear what the outcome of Sunday’s referendum will be. Results will be published later this week.

The vote comes as Cuba grapples with widespread anger over food shortages and the worst electricity shortages and blackouts in decades. The ailing economy has been battered by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and US sanctions imposed by the Trump administration – and partially maintained by President Joe Biden. Emigration is the highest in the country’s history, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported.

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