Cuba gay man and transgender woman marry

Ignacio Estrada and Wendy Iriepa after the wedding ceremony The couple say their marriage is not meant as a provocation

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A Cuban man and transgender woman have married in what is being seen as the country's first "gay wedding".

Same sex marriage is illegal in Cuba, but bride Wendy Iriepa is legally a woman after undergoing one of the first state-sponsored sex changes in 2007.

Her fiance, Ignacio Estrada, is a noted dissident and gay rights activist in Cuba and suffers from Aids.

The couple said the wedding, timed to coincide with Fidel Castro's birthday, was a "gift" for the former leader.

The wedding in Havana was attended by prominent dissidents and members of the gay community.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people faced official discrimination for years in communist Cuba.

'Great injustice'

In the early days of the revolution many were sent to re-education camps to stamp out their "counter-revolutionary" values.

Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada were declared ''legally united in matrimony''

But homosexuality was made legal in 1970, and President Raul Castro has introduced a series of gay rights reforms since taking over from his brother Fidel in 2006.

Last year Fidel Castro himself apologised for the persecution of homosexuals under his rule, calling it a "great injustice".

Onlookers at Havana registry office For some onlookers outside the registry office, the idea of a gay wedding was a bit of a head-scratcher

Ms Iriepa, 37, had her sex-change treatment at the National Centre for Sex Education, which is headed by Raul Castro's daughter, Mariela.

"I dedicate my wedding to all those who want to have their own," she said after the ceremony.

"This is the first wedding between a transsexual woman and a gay man," Mr Estrada, 31, said.

"We celebrate it at the top of our voices and affirm that this is a step forward for the gay community in Cuba."

Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, who acted as a godmother at the ceremony, said that while the marriage was not technically a gay wedding "it is the closest we have come".

"We are very happy with what happened today," she wrote on Twitter.

"It was a big step in a small Cuba".

Birthday celebrations

Far larger celebrations have been taking place across the island to mark the 85th birthday of Fidel Castro, who ruled Cuba for nearly half a century

The veteran leader handed power to his brother in 2006 because of serious illness, but is still officially recognised as the "historic leader of the revolution".

People look from a Havana balcony beside a giant poster of Fidel Castro Despite his retirement, Fidel Castro remains a dominant figure in Cuba

The main event was a televised concert on Friday night at Havana's Karl Marx theatre, where stars from across Latin America performed for 5000 guests.

Fidel himself did not attend, and nor did Raul.

Fidel Castro has rarely been seen or heard in public since handing power to his brother.

In recent months he has been looking even frailer, the BBC's Michael Voss in Havana says, and his regular newspaper editorials have also dried up for the moment.

President Raul Castro, 80, is now firmly in charge, and has set about overhauling Cuba's struggling socialist economy.

But even in retirement, Fidel Castro remains a dominant force in the island, our correspondent says.

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