Thousands marched in Havana on Saturday to support gay rights and to join a symbolic marriage ceremony organised by President Raul Castro’s daughter Mariela. Waving Cuban and rainbow-coloured flags, the marchers called for equality and marriage rights for Cuba’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, on the eighth National Day Against Homophobia. “(We must) ensure that Cuban society as a whole is sensitive to these issues, is educated, and understands,” said Mariela Castro, a sexologist and leading LGBT rights activist. She said the march was also a showing of “spiritual support” of gay rights in the communist island nation.“We must continue to make noise and move these issues forward,” she said at the rally, where several couples held symbolic wedding ceremonies. Gay marriage is illegal in Cuba, though Castro has long fought to legalise it.
RELATED: Cuba decriminalized homosexuality in 1979. Gays have served openly in the military since 1993 and anti-LGBT employment discrimination was banned in 2013. In his 2010 autobiography Fidel Castro denounced homophobia and apologized for the treatment of gay Cubans during the early years of his regime. A civil unions bill has remained stalled in the national legislature for several years.