President Obama made history this week when he became the first American president in 88 years to visit Cuba in his continuing diplomatic outreach to the island nation. It was no surprise that Obama discussed the half-century old embargo on Cuba, but a surprising part of a speech he gave in Cuba yesterday involved his talk of LGBT rights on the island.
According to media reports, Obama gave a speech at the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater in Cuba’s capital, Havana, on March 22 and spoke of the historic advances for LGBT rights that the administration has helped usher in since Obama became president eight years ago.
“There are still enormous problems in our society, but democracy is the way that we solve them,” said Obama. “That’s how we got health care for more of our people. That’s how we made enormous gains in women’s rights, in gay rights.”
Obama continued to speak about human rights issues, explaining citizens of the world shouldn’t have to fear ridicule for free expression or the loss of livelihood or life due to poverty and lack of resources and health care.
“Every person should be equal under the law, every child deserves the dignity that comes with education and health care and food on the table and a roof over their heads,” said Obama. “Citizens should be free to speak their minds without fear, to organize and to criticize their government and to protest peacefully and that the rule of law should not include arbitrary
Cuba has a long history of human rights abuses. Although LGBT advocacy groups still complain about antipathy and harassment from the Cuban government, Cuba has seen a shift in its attitude towards its LGBT citizens since the 1990s and even Cuban President Raúl Castro’s daughter, Mariela Castro, has been a public advocate for LGBT rights as director of the National Center for Sexual Education.
We applaud Obama for continuing to spread the idea of equality for LGBT people around the world.