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A delegation of LGBTQ leaders from the United States, including Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith and Freedom to Work founder Tico Almeida, last week visited Cuba to join fellow activists for pride events on the island.
The U.S. activists met May 12 and 13 with LGBTQ people “who have petitioned the Cuban government to recognize equal marriage rights for Cuban same-sex couples and create legal protections for transgender Cubans,” according to a statement by Almeida, a Cuban-American civil rights attorney with the law firm Quinn Emanuel LLP, who organized the delegation and meetings in Havana.
“Business leaders at our top companies like American Airlines, Google, and Facebook have helped build bridges between Americans and the Cuban people, and it’s also important for the LGBT movement in the United States to create stronger connections with the brave gay and lesbian Cubans who are petitioning their government for the freedom to marry the person they love,” Almeida said. “While we wait for the United States Congress to repeal the absurd travel ban that still restricts Americans’ freedom to travel to Cuba, we can participate in legal ‘people to people’ travel opportunities that allow us to meet with leaders of Cuban civil society and exchange ideas about promoting fairness and equality for LGBT people in both countries.”
Almeida said the “people-to-people” delegation also included Brad Sears, executive director of the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School; Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland; and Google employees who are helping Cuban LGBTQ activists communicate with others on the island.
“We are pleased by the participation of the Google company in our parade against homophobia and transphobia in Havana,” said Cuban activist Lidia Romero in an email to the Miami Herald. “Our marriage equality campaign uses Google tools for pro-LGBTIQ messaging. For example, we have published stories on YouTube of lesbian couples who have children and will benefit from equal marriage in Cuba. It was a pleasure to meet colleagues from Google ”
Almeida described Google as “a strong ally to LGBT advocates across the globe.”
“It’s great to see Google become the first international company ever to send a delegation of its LGBT employees to march in the pride parade in Havana,” Almeida said. “Google has undertaken important and historic steps in recent years to place its servers on Cuban soil to increase speeds for YouTube, Gmail, and other Google platforms, and faster digital tools are important for the brave Cuban LGBT advocates who are currently campaigning for marriage equality in Cuba.”