Mariela Castro – the daughter of Cuban president Raul Castro – has cast the first ever recorded vote against a government bill, over a lack of LGBT protections.
Cuba has a tradition of legislation passing through the 612-seat National Assembly unanimously, even when bills are controversial outside of Parliament.
However Ms Castro – who is the head of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education as well as an MP – broke the decades-old tradition by casting a solitary vote against an employment rights bill, because it failed to prevent discrimination based on gender identity.
She said: “I could not vote in favour without the certainty that the labour rights of people with different gender identity would be explicitly recognized.
“There have been advances in the way things are discussed, above all the way things are discussed at the grass-roots level, in workplaces, unions and party groupings… I think we still need to perfect the democratic participation of the representatives within the Assembly.”
However, Baruch College Latin American studies professor Ted Henken noted: “I would say that this is more a sign of what Mariela can get away with than a sign of what your everyday parliamentarian can get away with.”
Ms Castro is one of the most outspoken figures in Cuba, openly praising Barack Obama for supporting same-sex marriage, and leading pro-gay protest marches.
Cuba made gender reassignment surgery available to citizens free of charge in 2008.