PHILADELPHIA, April 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Equality Forum, a national and international LGBT civil rights organization, calls on the U.S. State Department to allow Mariela Castro, a Cuban LGBT civil rights activist, to visit Philadelphia for Equality Forum 2013. The State Department issued a visa to Ms. Castro to visit New York for U.N. meetings, but did not authorize Ms. Castro to travel to Philadelphia to participate in Equality Forum 2013 with Cuba as the Featured Nation.
"Over the past 11 years, Equality Forum has invited leaders of the featured nation to attend. For those who needed a visa, all past visas have been approved," stated Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director, Equality Forum. "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."
The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, Mariela is married and the mother of three children. She is the head of CENESEX, a Havana-based organization which campaigns for effective AIDS prevention as well as recognition and acceptance of LGBT human rights. She has published 13 scholarly articles and nine books. She is a vocal leader in fighting homophobia in Cuba and advocating for same-sex marriage.
Equality Forum 2013 with Cuba as the Featured Nation will be held in Philadelphia on May 2 to 5. Equality Forum presents an annual national and international LGBT civil rights summit with a featured nation. The featured nation is not being honored, but presents an opportunity to explore the rights and challenges of that nation or region's LGBT citizens. Past featured nations include Canada, Russia, China, Gays and Lesbians in the Muslim World, Germany, and Israel, among others.
Several months ago, Ms. Castro accepted Equality Forum's invitation to speak on the Cuba: Featured Nation Panel (Saturday, May 4 at The University of the Arts) and to receive the International Ally for LGBT Equality Award at the International Equality Dinner (Saturday, May 4 at the National Museum of American Jewish History).
"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," said Lazin. "These are shared values that deserve the right to be heard regardless of political systems."
Equality Forum 2013 has over 30 programs with over 35 regional, national and international nonprofit organizations and religious and educational institutions. The programs can be found at www.equalityforum.com.
Equality Forum (www.equalityforum.com) is a nonprofit and 501(c)(3) organization with an educational focus. Equality Forum coordinates nationally and internationally LGBT History Month, produced three award-winning documentary films, undertakes high impact initiatives and presents annually a national and international LGBT civil rights summit.
SOURCE Equality Forum