Castro's Daughter Allowed to Visit Philly for Equality Forum

The State Department lifts controversial travel ban for Mariela Castro

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2013  |  Updated 10:59 AM EDT
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Mariela Castro has been denied a visa to attend Philadelphia Equality Forum. Castro is a vocal LGBT leader in Cuba. NBC10's Chris Cato reports.

NBC10 Philadelphia - Chris Cato

Mariela Castro has been denied a visa to attend Philadelphia Equality Forum. Castro is a vocal LGBT leader in Cuba. NBC10's Chris Cato reports.

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The daughter of Cuba President Raul Castro will be allowed now to travel to Philadelphia this week to accept an award for her gay rights advocacy.

The State Department this morning announced that it is lifting the Philly travel ban for Mariela Castro.

"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," Malcom Lazin, the executive director of Equality Forum, said in a statement last week when the organization called upon the State Dept. to lift the ban.

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Lazin praised today's decision, saying he was delighted that "the State Department has affirmed democratic values by authorizing Mariela Castro to speak at Equality Forum 2013."

Each year, the Equality Forum features one nation and invites leading LGBT voices and advocates from that country to take part in the four-day event. This year, Cuba is the featured nation for the forum, which is being held from May 2 to 5.

Castro will recieve the "International Ally for LBGT Equality Award" at a reception on Saturday night.

The married mother of three is the director of Cuba's National Center for Sex Education and has a reputation as the nation's most prominent gay rights activist.

Mariela Castro is the niece of retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro. She was allowed to attend an academic conference in San Francisco last year. Cuban-American lawmakers blasted the decision, calling Castro a shill for her family's Communist regime.

The State Department had already granted Mariela Castro a visa and permission to visit New York for meetings at the United Nations, but until today she was not authorized to come to Philadelphia.

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