Daughter of Cuban president leads gay rights march

May 12, 2012, 6:42 PM

Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) – The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro said during a rousing gay rights march Saturday that her father advocated eliminating sexual discrimination, and reiterated her own hope the country would soon legalize same sex marriage

Mariela Castro, a noted gay rights advocate and head of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education, also repeated her praise for U.S. President Barack Obama’s public remarks in favor of same sex marriage, saying the American leader’s words “have great value because of the influence they might have” on others.

Still, she said Obama needed to back his words with action. While the U.S. president voiced support for same sex marriage, there were no plans in the U.S. to get behind federal legislation to mandate states to recognize such unions.

Castro’s comments came during a colorful march by 400 advocates through the sweltering streets of the capital. The event is linked to the International Day Against Homophobia on May 17. Participants, including transvestites and transgender people, sang and danced in a conga line.

Castro has predicted for years that Cuba’s parliament was on the verge of legalizing gay marriage, but it has yet to happen. She said she hoped legislators would finally follow through when they next meet in July.

Castro said her father had voiced support for the measure privately several times, and indicated he was working behind the scenes in support of a reform of the island’s family law.

“It is surely part of his tactics and strategy; it is his style,” she said. “I am not going to pressure him to say things publically, because I am more interested in concrete results.”

In the early years after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, homosexuality was considered highly suspect, along with other “alternative” forms of expression.

Many gays were fired from government jobs, jailed, sent to work camps or left for exile. Fidel Castro later apologized for the discrimination, saying his past views on homosexuality were wrong, and a product of the times.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Daughter of Cuban president leads gay rights march