Equality Forum panelist Mariela Castro denied visa but show will go on

Malcolm Lazin
Equality Forum Executive Director Malcolm Lazin. (Credit: Charles Mostoller)

Cuba is the featured nation at this year’s Equality Forum, Philly’s annual summit on LGBT issues.

But Mariela Castro, perhaps Cuban’s preeminent activist when it comes to LGBT rights, is unable to participate after the U.S. Department of State denied her a visa to travel to Philadelphia.

“We were quite shocked,” Equality Forum Executive Director Malcolm Lazin said on Thursday.

“We asked what was the reason and there was no reason provided.”

He said his group reached out to a senior member of the state Congressional delegation, as well as a prominent American, who both also contacted the State Department to request a reversal or explanation, to no avail.

“You would expect, hopefully, a response, even if it was an ordinary citizen, but in this particular case, she’s both the daughter of the Cuban president and also someone who, in her own right, is internationally respected,” Lazin said.

Castro, who was slated to participate in panel discussion “Cuba: Featured Nation” and to receive the International Ally for LGBT Equality Award.

“She is internationally recognized for her efforts on behalf of HIV education and prevention, transgender rights and is responsible for getting the Cuban government to pay for reassignment surgery,” Lazin said.

Castro is president of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education, which conducts AIDS prevention education and advocates for LGBT rights in a country historically characterized as homophobic.

“It does seem like there’s a role reversal here,” Lazin said.

“You would expect that it would be Cuba who would deny our folks the opportunity to visit whoever they want and to say whatever they want.

“We just had a major visit by Beyonce and Jay-Z. As far as I could tell, they were allowed to go wherever they wanted, they were allowed to say whatever they wanted. I’m unaware of Americans who travel to Cuba being muzzled, in terms of not being able to express their viewpoints, so it is very disappointing as an American citizen to see our country embrace a counter-democratic response.”

Landmark year

Lazin said the 21st annual Equality Forum, which kicks off May 1 with a gala honoring the late Sen. Arlen Specter and ends May 5 with the SundayOUT! at The Piazza party, is celebrating a sea change in LGBT rights.

“I think we’re really at the epicenter of the LGBT civil rights movement,” he said.

“My guess is when people look back at 2013, it will be the year they point to, in part, because of the Prop 8 case and the DOMA case, but also look at the remarkable changes that are happening within the Republican party, the Boy Scouts, sports –  literally across the board. It’s amazing what’s occurring and so this summit helps to reflect that both nationally and also through its featured nation.”

For a full list of this year’s events, click here.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Movies

Review: Sadly, Matthew Weiner's 'Are You Here' is…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner tries his hand at movies with "Are You Here," a misjudged Owen Wilson-Zach Galifianakis comedy that turns into a drama.

Movies

Review: 'Love is Strange' is not only a…

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina tie the knot in "Love is Strange," but the film winds up being more about living with people than an activist picture.

Movies

Frank Miller on writing 'Sin City'

Frank Miller's comics career is a long and storied one, with "Sin City" being one of his most individual creations. Here, in his own words,…

Movies

Interview: Jessica Alba is a stripper again in…

Jessica Alba has gotten used to vague phone calls from director Robert Rodriguez, the Austin-based auteur who has made a habit of putting Alba into…

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

Wellbeing

Another way stress hurts your unborn baby

Mothers know to try staying calm during pregnancy, as stress has been linked to behavioral and developmental problems for their babies. But now, a new…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…

Wellbeing

What eye symptoms need emergency attention?

Many people experience temporary eye-related problems such as pink eye (conjunctivitis) from a cold virus or a scratched cornea resulting from an object coming into…

Sex

Big weddings may lead to longterm happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. A new…