Lawyers for Cuban-Americans Not Ready to Drop Discrimination Suit Against Carnival

By Jacob Gershman

Carnival on Friday announced that the Cuban government is allowing Cuban-born travelers to join the company’s historic cruise to the island next month.

But lawyers for Cuban-Americans who brought a discrimination suit against the company this month say they’re not ready to drop their complaint.

Friday’s development is a big turnaround from just a few days ago when Carnival was barring Cuban-born Americans from taking part in the first cruise to the island in more than 50 years. Carnival’s policy was the result of a longstanding Cuban ban on Cuban-born people returning to the Communist island by sea.

A federal lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Florida on April 12 accuses the world’s largest cruise-ship company and its new Fathom subsidiary of unlawful national-origin discrimination in a public place of accommodation, in this case a cruise ship. The suit, filed as a class action, has two named plaintiffs, both Cuban-born Americans.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say they still object to the requirement that Cuban-born travelers who came to the U.S. after 1971 obtain a Cuban passport from the Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C., a step not required of other passengers.

“Everybody should be treated equally. That’s what we want,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Javier A. Lopez, of Kozyak Tropin Throckmorton LLP in Florida, told Law Blog on Friday. He called Carnival’s announcement a “huge step in the right direction.”

But he said they would be willing to drop their complaint if they see a written statement from Carnival assuring that Cuba won’t backtrack on lifting the ban. Cuba’s shift in policy was reported in Granma, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party.

Without a statement from the company guaranteeing entry, Mr. Lopez said he and his clients can’t be sure the country won’t change its mind.

A Carnival spokesman told Law Blog that the company is hopeful that the litigation would be resolved amicably.

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