LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. LGBT, or LGBTQ+ (a common variant), are used as an umbrella term for topics pertaining to sexual and gender identity. It is used to refer to anyone who is non-heterosexual and non-cisgender instead of exclusively applying to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, such as those who identify as queer or intersex individuals. Other variants of LGBT include LGBTQ, LGBTQ+, LGBTQIA, and LGBTQIA+. Differences in the variants do not necessarily represent differences in politics within the community but are rather just preferences among individuals and groups. LGBT people around the world face inequality, discrimination, and violence. Rights affecting those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community vary greatly by country or jurisdiction. LGBTQ+ rights encompass everything from the death penalty to the legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
LGBTQ+ Rights in the United States
The U.S. has made great strides in LGBTQ+ rights over the years. Although the U.S. Supreme Courts have legalized many LGBTQ+ rights, jobs, housing, and service discrimination still exist and rights continue to vary by jurisdiction. The U.S. has no federal law outlawing discrimination nationwide. The Equality Act would amend existing civil rights laws to explicitly state sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. By including this language, the Act would provide explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people nationwide and all areas of life such as housing, education, employment, public spaces and services, and federally funded programs among other things. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been fighting for LGBTQ+ rights since 1936 and brings more LGBTQ+ cases than any other national organization.
Some of the greatest victories for the LGBTQ+ community in the United States are the legalization of gay marriage and the legalization of adoption of children by same-sex couples. Gay marriage legalization expanded from one state in 2004 to all fifty states in 2015 through federal court rulings, state court rulings, state legislation, and direct popular votes. The Supreme Court struck down all bans on same-sex adoption in 2016, legalizing it in all 50 states. Despite significant progress, the United States still has a way to go for LGBTQ+ rights.
LGQBTQ+ Rights Around the World
LGBTQ+ rights vary greatly between countries. In some countries, homosexuality is illegal, while in others it is legal but organizations and promotion of “nontraditional sexual relations” are illegal. In a few countries, homosexuality can receive a death penalty. Homosexual activity is a capital offense in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria, Sudan, and Somalia.
Transgender individuals can join the military in only 19 countries: Canada, Bolivia, French Guiana, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand. Thailand allows transgender individuals to join only in administrative positions. Only Ecuador, Brazil, and Malta have outlawed conversion therapies nationwide. Conversion therapy is not outlawed in the United States nationwide; however, Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine have statewide bans.
Only 5% of the United Nations member states have written into their constitutions that sexual orientation-based discrimination is prohibited. These states include Ecuador, Mexico, Portugal, Bolivia, South Africa, Sweden, and Nepal. Most of Europe and South America have taken steps to tackle sexual orientation-based discrimination in the workplace, as well as some other countries around the world. In general, same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt outside the Americas, Europe, and Australia and New Zealand.
The Netherlands was the first country to allow same-sex marriage in 2001 and Ecuador is the most recent country to legalize it. Same-sex marriage is not legalized in the majority of Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. Only 13% of UN member states have legalized gay marriage and a handful recognize civil unions, including Peru, Greece, and Italy.
Safest Countries for LGBTQ+ People
Sweden is the most gay-friendly country in the world. Sweden has legalized same-sex marriage, worker protections for both gender identity and sexual orientation, constitutional protections against discrimination, and criminalization of violence against LGBTQ+ people. Additionally, same-sex couples are allowed to adopt in Sweden. Canada ranks second as the most LGBTQ+-friendly nation in the world. Unlike Sweden, Canada has worker protections for sexual orientation only, not including gender identity. Canada was the first country outside of Europe and the fourth country in the world to legalized gay marriage on July 20, 2005. Additionally, same-sex couples can adopt and there are constitutional protections against discrimination of LGBTQ+ people.
Norway is the third-most LGBTQ+-friendly nation. Norway has legalized gay marriage and has worker protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity. Norway has broad protections for discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, rather than constitutional protections, and has criminalized hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community. Like Sweden and Canada, Norway allows for joint and second-parent adoption for same-sex couples. Portugal ranks fourth on the list. Portugal became the sixth European country and the eighth country in the world to legalize gay marriage on May 17, 2010. In 2016, same-sex couples became eligible to adopt. Additionally, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals are all allowed to join the Portuguese military. The LGBTQ+ has constitutional protections against discrimination as well as worker protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity.
Ranking fifth on the list is Belgium. Belgium was the second country in the world to legalize gay marriage behind the Netherlands. Same-sex couples have equal adoption rights as opposite-sex couples and LGBT people are not banned from the military. Belgium offers broad protections for LGBTQ+ people against discrimination and has worker protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. The United Kingdom is the sixth-most LGBTQ+-friendly country in the world. On March 29, 2014, the UK legalized same-sex marriage. Laws to allow same-sex couples to adopt passed in England and Wales in 2005 and Scotland in 2009. Since 2000, LGBT people have been allowed to openly serve in the military and discrimination based on sexual orientation has been prohibited since 2010. The British military also grants same-sex couples the same rights to housing and allowances as it does to opposite-sex couples.
Finland, the third Nordic country on the list, the seventh-most LGTBQ+-friendly country in the world. Same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption have been legal since March 1, 2017. Finland has worker protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity and has broad protections against discrimination. France was the 13th country to legalize gay marriage on May 18, 2013. Same-sex couples have also been legally able to adopt since the same-sex marriage law took effect. France offers worker protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals are allowed to serve openly in the military. In 2004, the National Assembly approved an amendment to existing anti-discrimination laws to include homophobic comments as illegal.
Iceland ranks ninth for LGBTQ+ friendliness. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Iceland in 2010 by a unanimous vote to define marriage as between two individuals. Since 2006, same-sex couples have had equal access to adoption and IVF (in vitro fertilization) as opposite-sex couples. In 2018, Iceland passed a law banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics. Finishing the top ten list of the most LGBTQ+-friendly countries is Spain. In 2005, Spain legalized both same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption. Spain has nationwide worker protections for sexual orientation only; however, some autonomous communities in Spain have banned discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to serve openly in the Spanish Armed Forces.
The ten worst countries for LGBT rights are:
These countries have no LGBTQ+ protections. Homosexuality in these countries is subject to imprisonment, stoning, flogging, and, in some countries, can result in the death penalty.