Based on data from 133 countries from 1990 to 2014, this report examines whether there is a connection between the level of acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and the level of inclusiveness of a country’s laws.
Acceptance is defined as the extent to which LGBT people are seen by individuals in society in ways that are positive and inclusive, both with respect to individual opinions about LGBT people and with regard to an individual’s positions on LGBT policy. The LGBT Global Acceptance Index (GAI) has been developed, using public opinion data, to score each country’s level of acceptance based on a range of zero to ten.
Legal LGB Inclusiveness is defined as the extent to which a country’s legal standards recognize and protect the rights of LGB people. The Legal Environment Index (LEI) has been developed to measure the level of legal inclusiveness each year in each country. The LEI relies on secondary data about seven different legal norms, established either legislatively, judicially, or by executive action, in each country. Based on this data, each country is assigned a policy environment rating, from one to five, each year.
The major finding of this study is that, in general, a strong statistical relationship exists between social acceptance of LGBT people and LGB legal inclusiveness. Other findings include:
- As the laws of each country evolve from no inclusion to fuller inclusion, the legal changes follow one of two paths. Some countries move from decriminalization of same-sex behavior to the adoption of laws pertaining to discrimination in economic activities, such as employment and public accommodations, and some countries move from decriminalization to the adoption of laws pertaining to family recognition and parenting. Both paths can lead to fuller legal inclusion, where policies include LGB people in employment non-discrimination policies and public accommodations, family recognition policies including legal same-sex couple recognition and adoption, and military service.
- In countries where freedom of the press is greater, the relationship between acceptance and legal inclusiveness is stronger. In countries with the lowest levels of press freedom, the relationship does not exist.
- Countries with a strong rule of law have a stronger relationship between LGB acceptance and LGB-inclusive policies. This relationship does not exist in countries with weaker rule of law. Countries with the weakest rule of law are also the most likely not to have any LGB-inclusive policies.
- In democracies, acceptance has a strong association with legal inclusiveness. In anocracies, the association is weaker and the level of legal inclusiveness is not likely to be high even as acceptance increases. Within autocracies, social acceptance has no association with LGB inclusion.