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Cuban evangelicals push back against gay marriage

Published
Evangelicals pray during a Mass at a church in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. A Cuban government push to legalize gay marriage has set off an unprecedented reaction from the island's rapidly growing evangelical churches, whose members are expected to widely reject a state-proposed constitutional reform in a nationwide referendum this month.(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

HAVANA (AP) — A Cuban government push to legalize gay marriage has set off an unprecedented reaction from the island's rapidly growing evangelical churches, whose members are expected to widely reject a state-proposed constitutional reform in a nationwide referendum this month.

The reform is almost certain to pass by a broad margin of Cuba's 7 million voters - language opening the door to gay marriage is only one element of the reform - but the evangelical vote could shave hundreds of thousands of votes from its victory.

With many pastors promoting "no" votes from the pulpit, the swelling evangelical rejection of the constitution is a novel development for a state that prides itself on projecting an image of ideological unanimity. Cuban government-endorsed candidates and proposals typically receive 'yes' votes well above 90 percent.

An evangelical prays during a Mass at a church in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. There is no official count of evangelicals in Cuba, whose people have historically been Catholics and followers of the African religions known as Yoruba or Santeria. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A child prays during bible school at an evangelical church in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. The long process of reforming Cuba's constitution began in April of last year, with the formation of a commission that circulated a draft continuing the language paving the way for swift passage of gay marriage. That was heavily supported by Raul Castro's daughter Mariela, the head of the government's gay rights organization, but opposed by evangelical churches and non-evangelical Cubans. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A child holds up a bible with a sticker that reads
Evangelicals pray during a Mass at a church in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. The number of evangelical and non-evangelical protestants is estimated to total a million people in this country of 11 million. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Evangelicals pray during a Mass at a church in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. A Cuban government push to legalize gay marriage has set off an unprecedented reaction from the island's rapidly growing evangelical churches, whose members are expected to widely reject a state-proposed constitutional reform in a nationwide referendum this month.(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Evangelicals pray during a Mass at a church in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. A Cuban government push to legalize gay marriage has set off an unprecedented reaction from the island's rapidly growing evangelical churches, whose members are expected to widely reject a state-proposed constitutional reform in a nationwide referendum this month.(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Evangelicals pray during a Mass at a church in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. The number of evangelical and non-evangelical protestants is estimated to total a million people in this country of 11 million. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Evangelicals pray during a Mass at a church in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. The number of evangelical and non-evangelical protestants is estimated to total a million people in this country of 11 million. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A child prays during bible school at an evangelical church in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. The long process of reforming Cuba's constitution began in April of last year, with the formation of a commission that circulated a draft continuing the language paving the way for swift passage of gay marriage. That was heavily supported by Raul Castro's daughter Mariela, the head of the government's gay rights organization, but opposed by evangelical churches and non-evangelical Cubans. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A child prays during bible school at an evangelical church in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. The long process of reforming Cuba's constitution began in April of last year, with the formation of a commission that circulated a draft continuing the language paving the way for swift passage of gay marriage. That was heavily supported by Raul Castro's daughter Mariela, the head of the government's gay rights organization, but opposed by evangelical churches and non-evangelical Cubans. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
An evangelical prays during a Mass at a church in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. There is no official count of evangelicals in Cuba, whose people have historically been Catholics and followers of the African religions known as Yoruba or Santeria. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
An evangelical prays during a Mass at a church in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. There is no official count of evangelicals in Cuba, whose people have historically been Catholics and followers of the African religions known as Yoruba or Santeria. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A child holds up a bible with a sticker that reads
A child holds up a bible with a sticker that reads "I am in favor of the original design " during bible school at an evangelical church in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. Among evangelical denominations with public figures on their members, the Pentecostals, Methodists and Baptists alone say they have more than 260,000 followers.(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)