Equality Forum panelist Mariela Castro denied visa to Philadelphia

Mariela Castro
Mariela Castro at Montreal’s International Conference on LGBT Human Rights in 2006. (Credit: Wikipedia/Montrealais)

Cuban activist Mariela Castro has been denied a visa to visit Philadelphia for the city’s Equality Forum summit, according to a release from the organization.

Cuba is the featured nation at the 2013 Equality Forum, which will this year run from May 2 through May 5 and include over 30 programs discussing LGBT issues with more than 35 participating nonprofit organizations, religious foundations and educational institutions.

“Over the past 11 years, Equality Forum has invited leaders of the featured nation to attend,” Executive Director Malcolm Lazin said in a statement.

“It is shocking that our State Department would deny Ms. Castro travel to a civil rights summit – especially one held in the birthplace of our democracy that enshrines freedoms of speech and assembly.”

Daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro and niece of former President Fidel Castro, Mariela Castro is a fierce advocate for LGBT rights.

She heads up Havana-based AIDS prevention and LGBT rights organization CENESEX and has been fighting for Cuba to recognize same-sex marriage.

Castro several months ago accepted Equality Forum’s to speak at panel discussion Cuba: Featured Nation, slated to be held Saturday, May 4 at the University of the Arts.

She was also scheduled to be honored with the International Ally for LGBT Equality Award at the International Equality Dinner, also on May 4, at the National Museum of American Jewish History.

The Equality Forum pointed out in a statement that the U.S. State Department issued a visa for Castro to visit New York City to attend United Nation meetings but did not authorize her to travel to Philadelphia to participate in Equality Forum 2013.

“Mariela Castro runs the leading Cuban LGBT organization that offers support and services to LGBT youth and seniors, provides HIV and STD education and prevention, and combats homophobia,” Lazin said.

“These are shared values that deserve the right to be heard regardless of political systems.”


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