President Biden’s memorandum bolsters support for LGBTQI+ people and rights around the world

Yesterday, President Biden issued a memorandum proclaiming the administration’s support for LGBTQI+ people and rights globally. The memo focuses on advancing protections for LGBTQI+ people around the world, protecting LGBTQI+ asylum seekers and refugees, supporting the decriminalization of LGBTQI+ identities and relationships, and strengthening coalitions with other nations that support LGBTQI+ rights.

LGBT people continue to face violence, stigma, and discrimination in many parts of the world despite advances in some countries and regions. A 2019 Williams Institute study that measured changes in acceptance of LGBT people over time across 174 countries found the average level of acceptance has increased since 1981, but progress has been polarized. The most accepting countries showing the greatest levels of acceptance and the least accepting countries reflect even lower levels of acceptance.

Other research found a strong association between social acceptance of LGBT people and the existence of laws that recognize and protect the rights of LGBT people, particularly in countries where there is freedom of the press, rule of law, and democratic institutions of governance. In addition, countries that offer more rights to LGB people enjoy significantly higher per capita GDP than those who do not.

“LGBTQI+ rights are an urgent human rights issue,” said Ari Shaw, Director of International Programs at the Williams Institute. “Support from the U.S. will promote the safety and well-being of LGBTQI+ people around the world, particularly in countries with hostile policies against sexual and gender minorities, and it will support economic global development.”

Key findings from Williams Institute research include

  • In a recent analysis of LGBT acceptance in 174 countries, 131 countries experienced an increase in social acceptance since 1981, 27 countries underwent no change, and 16 countries saw a decrease.
  • A 2020 report on LGBT people in Colombia found that LGBT respondents experienced high levels of victimization and discrimination.
    • One in five respondents had been subjected to conversion therapy efforts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.
    • 75% of LGBT respondents had been bullied at least once before turning 18.
    • 76% of transgender people experienced verbal assault in their lifetime.
    • 20% reported verbal abuse and 11% reported physical abuse by the police.
  • A 2016 survey of 23 countries found that majorities of residents in each country believe transgender people deserve important rights, such as the right to change official documents to be consistent with their gender identity.
  • Majorities in 21 countries support policies that ban discrimination against transgender people.
  • Majorities in 16 countries support rights to marry for transgender people.
  • Majorities in 14 countries support adoption rights for transgender people.
  • Despite this support, a number of these countries offer only limited legal rights to transgender people.
  • Countries that exclude LGBT people face economic costs. A 2019 report on LGBT discrimination in South Africa found an annual loss of US $317 million due to LGBT wage discrimination and underemployment and a loss of billions of dollars due to health disparities and sexual assault disproportionately experienced by LGBT adults.
February 5, 2021

Media Contact: Rachel Dowd
Office: 310-206-8982

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