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Attitudes Toward LGBT People and Their Rights in Europe  

Kath Wilson

Attitudes toward LGBT people have changed in Europe since the 1990s; there is generally much more tolerance and acceptance. Evidence drawn from surveys and research projects including the European Social Survey, European Values Study, and Pew Research Center illustrate the types of attitudes that have changed, and in which European countries change has occurred. A comparison of attitudes and tolerance across Europe indicates that some countries and groups of countries are more accepting of LGBT people. North-western European nations appear high in the tolerance rankings of trend surveys, while more easterly European nations have not always followed this progression. Indeed, in cases such as Russia and Chechnya, “propaganda laws” have denied LGBT people basic human rights. Hostility toward and violence against LGBT people is perpetrated with seeming impunity in these areas. Factors that influence attitudes toward LGBT people and their rights include democracy and economic development, religiosity, global forces, and degrees of contact. There is a clear link between legislation and attitudes; in countries where legislation is in place and, for example, where same-sex marriage is legal, surveys overwhelmingly show a higher acceptance of LGBT people. Legislation is a powerful influence in shaping social attitudes, so it is important to consider the legislation adopted by various European countries. Institutions such as the European Union are effective in providing protections for LGBT citizens as well as leading on areas such as the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). There has been “pushback” in terms of change and one of the more contested areas is same-sex marriage. While the trend since the late 20th century has seemed to be toward introducing same-sex marriage, a number of countries, largely in Eastern Europe, have introduced constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, defining marriage as solely between a man and woman. The position of trans and non-binary people is particularly perilous since there is very little legislative protection in place for them. There has been a positive change in attitudes and legislation across Europe which has enhanced the lived lives of LGBT people; these changes, however, have not been even or uniform across the area.

Article

The Political Economy of LGBT Rights  

Scott N. Siegel

Equal treatment for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has improved at a rapid pace around the world since the gay rights movement first rose up to become a salient global force for change. With important regional exceptions, laws criminalizing same-sex sexual relations have not only come down in multiple countries, but same-sex couples can now also construct families in many advanced industrialized countries. Public acceptance of homosexuality, even in some non-Western countries, has increased dramatically. Yet, within those general trends hides the remarkable unevenness in the spread and adoption of policies fostering legal, social, and economic equality for LGBTQ communities around the world. Policy change toward more equal treatment for sexual minorities is concentrated in the developed world and within the cisgender gay and lesbian communities in particular. The existing literature in policy change shows the importance of transnational activists, changing international norms, and increasing levels of secularization have made this possible. But the effectiveness of these factors rests on an underlying foundation of socioeconomic factors based on economic and social development that characterizes advanced industrialized states. There is an uneven distribution of resources and interests among pro and anti-LGBT activist groups alike, and the differing levels of economic development in which they operate that explains the decidedly uneven nature of how LGBTQ human rights have advanced in the past 50 years. In addition, new political parties and activist organizations have emerged to lead the backlash against LGBTQ rights, showing progress is neither inevitable nor linear. In addition, serious gaps in what we know about LGBT politics remain because of the overwhelming scholarly focus on advanced industrialized states and policies that benefit the cisgender, gay and lesbian middle class in primarily Western societies. The study of LGBT politics in non-Western and developing countries is woefully neglected, for reasons attributed to the nature of the research community and the subject area. In the developed world, greater attention is needed to inequality within the LGBTQ community and issues beyond same-sex marriage. Finally, issues of intersectionality and how different groups within the LGBT community have enjoyed most of the benefits of the gay rights movement since its takeoff more than 50 years ago.

Article

HIV/AIDS Politics and Policy in U.S. States and Localities  

Patricia Siplon

From the earliest days of its recognition in the United States, the condition that came to be known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has been associated with the gay community. In fact, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first made written notice of the syndrome in 1981, the acronym GRID (gay-related immune disease) was commonly, although not officially, used to describe it. In the five years that followed, the causal agent, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), was discovered, specific demographic groups were identified as at heightened risk of infection, and transmission routes—including sexual activity, intravenous drug use, and transfusion of blood and blood products—were determined. Identification of HIV with the gay community as a major risk group had important ramifications for prevention and treatment policy, as the community mobilized a rights-based approach that advocated harm reduction over abstinence and access and affordability of treatment over the interests of the private market. These concepts carried into later debates as the world recognized the global severity of HIV and grappled for the first time ever with a goal of universal treatment access in the world’s poorest countries where the pandemic is most severe. Identification of HIV with values, conceptual structures, leadership, and mobilization drawn from the gay community also had ramifications on the social and political contexts of AIDS treatment and prevention globally, as governments and cultures that had ignored or demonized their gay populations have increased their interactions with them as “risk groups” and as political actors. Despite the remarkable inroads made into accessibility of treatment, the world remains without a vaccine, a cure, or the political will to fully implement universal treatment access, which means that eradication of the global pandemic remains elusive.

Article

Canada’s LGBT Movement and Interest Groups  

David Rayside

The Canadian LGBT movement has had enormous success in gaining political and legal recognition for sexual minorities—as much as any of its sister movements in other countries. This is especially remarkable because the sexual repressiveness of the Canadian social and political climate remained largely in place until the 1990s. And although activist groups across the country have had challenges in marshalling resources, mobilizing beyond the regional level, and overcoming internal inequities, advocacy pressure has been effective enough to produce a political sea change with few precedents in other issue areas. Starting in the 1990s, Canada experienced a country-wide “takeoff” in the formal recognition of sexual diversity, most dramatically in the legal status given to same-sex relationships. Even if a vocal minority of the general public opposed such moves, the acceptance of sexual minorities as legitimate members of the Canadian mosaic has become politically normalized. Sexual diversity is far from being fully accepted, and those communities traditionally under-represented in the LGBT movement still face marginalization in a period of growing socioeconomic inequality. But the movement has made impressive gains, aided by social and institutional factors that have allowed activist leverage when the political winds blew in their favor. This success, however, presents new challenges, creating complacency within and beyond LGBT circles and increasing the difficulty of mobilizing people and resources. The decline of religiously conservative opposition to the public recognition of sexual diversity in Canada has also created room for the movement to become more fragmented than it has been in the past. And yet there is still much need for advocacy. Socially conservative politicians are still pandering to public anxiety about recognizing sexual diversity. Activist attention is still needed in areas such as schooling, policing, social service provision, and immigration. Trans people, “two-spirited” Indigenous people, and sexual minorities within Canada’s large ethnocultural and religious minorities are often on the margins of their own communities, the broader society, and the LGBT movement itself. From the early 1970s through the mid-2000s, the Canadian movement’s trajectory was similar to activism elsewhere. A “liberationist” period generated a long-lasting strand of radicalism alongside a slowly growing current focused on seeking rights through mainstream political channels (Adam, 1987, 1999). The analysis to follow first points to distinctive elements of the Canadian social and political context and then traces the evolution of what would become the LGBT movement from these early stages and into a period of legal and political “takeoff.” It points to strong commonalities in movement agendas, even across imposing regional lines, but also recognizes the challenges of mounting coherent movement responses to remaining inequities in a political environment so marked by activist success.