LGBTQ+ Legal Rights: An Evolving Global Landscape

Reading time: 15 min

  • Angela Jovanoska

    Written by: Angela Jovanoska Research Writer

  • Felipe Allende

    Fact-Checked by Felipe Allende Cybersecurity & Tech Writer

Countries have made considerable progress from the days of persecuting LGBTQ+ people. It is now common to see LGBTQ+ individuals represented in politics, arts, sports, and entertainment. However, many countries in the Middle East and Africa have remained stagnant or regressed in LGBTQ+ rights.

This research by the WizCase team aims to understand the current state of global legal protections for LGBTQ+ people, especially considering the high levels of online threats and harassment faced by that group.

We examined legal protection from discrimination, recognition of same-sex couples, and adoption eligibility to create a list of the best and worst countries for LGBTQ+ rights. We also analyzed the impact of persecution on individuals and society and compared surveys showing public sentiment toward LGBTQ+ individuals.

We use the term LGBTQ+ to represent lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, queer, and others who don’t identify with traditional ideas of sexual orientation and gender.

Researching LGBTQ+ Legal Rights Around the World

In order to create a comprehensive ranking of countries according to LGBTQ+ rights, we split our research into several different categories, including the criminalization of homosexuality, legal protection against discrimination, the recognition of LGBTQ+ partnerships, and the right of LGBTQ+ people to adopt children. Using the data, we created a list of the best and worst countries for LGBTQ+ rights out of 193 countries worldwide.

We also looked at the legal rights of transgender and non-binary people, who, although encompassed within the LGBTQ+ community, may have different legal needs than people with same-sex orientation. To do this, we combined data from an existing study about legal gender recognition, discrimination laws, and hate crimes against trans and non-binary people with trans murder rates in different countries. In total, we covered 27 nations, as these are the only ones reporting data on all these metrics combined.

Furthermore, we researched LGBTQ+ rights specifically in the US, taking a closer look at key issues, such as the right to change legal gender, anti-discrimination laws, and the legality of conversion therapy in different states.

Ultimately, our goal was to gather a comprehensive understanding of the progress that different countries have made regarding LGBTQ+ rights and illustrate global trends. We found that the common perception of LGBTQ+ friendliness isn’t always the truth.

Methodology – How We Did Our Research

To come up with the list of the most advanced countries in LGBTQ+ rights, we rated 193 nations based on the following categories:

  1. The legality of same-sex sexual acts – Some countries still consider same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults to be punishable by law. The top countries on our list do not criminalize them.
  2. Constitutional protection – The existence of laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  3. Employment protection – LGBTQ+ people can be particularly vulnerable when it comes to different aspects of employment, such as being hired, promoted, or paid equally. For our list, we considered whether or not a country explicitly listed employment among the constitutional protection it afforded LGBTQ+ people.
  4. Protection against hate crimes – This refers to violent crimes motivated by a bias against a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
  5. Protection against incitement – The instigation of violence and discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is also considered illegal in the top countries of our list.
  6. Conversion therapy ban – The prohibition of harmful emotional and physical therapies used against LGBTQ+ people to “cure” or “change” their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  7. Recognition of same-sex couples – The legal recognition of a same-sex partnership, either by marriage or civil union.
  8. The legality of adoption – The right of LGBTQ+ people to adopt children, whether by joint or by second-parent adoption (one person adopting the biological child of their partner).

Calculating Our Ranking – How We Came Up With the Best and Worst Countries for LGBTQ+ Rights

Once we gathered all the data, we “translated” it into numeric values. Each of the 193 countries analyzed scored 2 points for an anti-LGBTQ+ law, 0 for a pro-LGBTQ+ law, and 1 point for limited legal provisions. In other words, the lower the score, the better.

  • Constitutional protection = Yes (0), Limited (1), No (2)
  • Employment protection = Yes (0), Limited (1), No (2)
  • Protection against hate crime = Yes (0), Limited (1), No (2)
  • Protection against incitement = Yes (0), Limited (1), No (2)
  • Conversion therapy ban = Yes (0), Limited (1), No (2)
  • Same-sex marriage = Yes (0), No (2)
  • Civil unions = Yes (0), No (2)
  • Joint adoption = Yes (0), No (2)
  • Second-parent adoption = Yes (0), No (2)

For the countries where same-sex sexual relations are illegal, we considered the maximum possible penalty in each country and weighted it as follows:

  • Death penalty = 10 points
  • 15 years in prison or more = 7 points
  • Less than 15 years in prison = 4 points

Overall Ranking of LGBT Rights per Country

Here is our overall ranking of countries based on the rights they afford to LGBTQ+ people. Our highest-rated list includes 25 countries – all of which scored 0-5 points. Similarly, the lowest-rated list contains 19 countries in total – those scoring over 30 points on our scale.

The Best Ranked Countries

1. Malta 10. New Zealand 19. Mexico
2. Portugal 11. Uruguay 20. Norway
3. Belgium 12. Australia 21. South Africa
4. Brazil 13. Austria 22. Sweden
5. Canada 14. Chile 23. United Kingdom
6. France 15. Colombia 24. Switzerland
7. Greece 16. Cuba 25. United States
8. Spain 17. Ecuador
9. Netherlands 18. Iceland

Malta and Portugal rank the highest in our list of best LGBT countries, both earning a perfect score (zero): they offer constitutional and employment protection to LGBT individuals, as well as protection against incitement and hate crimes. Both countries allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. Plus, conversion therapy is illegal and punishable by law.

The remaining 23 highest-rated countries allow same-sex marriage and adoption and offer protection against various forms of discrimination. Still, each of them fails on at least one front in terms of LGBTQ+ rights. For instance, Spain doesn’t offer constitutional protection,
Greece doesn’t allow second-parent adoption, while the Netherlands has yet to ban conversion therapy.

The Worst Ranked Countries

1. Afghanistan 7. Qatar 13. Bangladesh
2. Brunei Darussalam 8. Saudi Arabia 14. Gambia
3. Iran 9. Somalia 15. Guyana
4. Mauritania 10. Uganda 16. Sierra Leone
5. Nigeria 11. UAE 17. Sudan
6. Pakistan 12. Yemen 18. Tanzania
19. Zambia

On the other end of the spectrum, Afghanistan, Brunei Darussalam, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Uganda, the UAE, and Yemen all have the highest possible score (38) because they all have provisions for the death penalty. The rest of the countries on our lowest-rated list punish homosexuality with life imprisonment.

graphic summarizing the study and how countries were ranked according to their LGBTQ friendliness

A Snapshot of Global LGBTQ+ Rights

Within the last 70 years, the world has seen a record number of legislative changes on LGBTQ+ rights. According to Equaldex, a crowdsourced initiative to track the LGBTQ+ rights movement, 3,200+ legislative changes were made between 1953 and 2023. Interestingly enough, nearly 75% of those legal updates occurred after the turn of the millennium. This covers laws that were either for or against LGBTQ+ rights in various areas, such as marriage, housing, employment, and healthcare.
The vast majority of the legal updates that took place between 2021-2023 are in favor of the LGBTQ+ population. Homosexual acts became legal in a total of six countries – Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bhutan, Mauritius, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Singapore.

During that same period, same-sex marriage became legal in Andorra, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Slovenia, and Switzerland. Conversion therapy was also banned in various countries around the world, including Belgium, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, France, Greece, Iceland, India, Italy, Spain, and Vietnam.

Between 2021 and 2023, the non-binary gender was also recognized legally for the first time in Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico. Additionally, the right to change one’s legal gender based on self-ID became possible in countries like Finland and New Zealand.

However, there have also been several anti-LGBT legal changes between 2021 and 2023. The most severe happened in Uganda, where homosexuality became punishable by death. It was also made illegal and punishable by law to discuss, promote, or teach about LGBTQ+ issues.

Since 2023, Russia has also censored LGBTQ+ issues, implementing fines as punishment for promoting such content. In the United States, censorship of LGBTQ+ issues has become state-enforced in Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Furthermore, since 2023, same-sex adoption is only allowed to single LGBTQ+ individuals in Russia and Romania. Meanwhile, conversion therapy has yet to be banned in 170+ countries, including Denmark, Japan, South Africa, and the UK.

Note: For the purpose of this article, whenever we mention “same-sex sexual acts,” we are referring to consensual sexual acts conducted in private between people of the same sex.

Results Part 1. Criminalization of Homosexuality

Decriminalizing same-sex sexual acts is often seen as a significant first step towards achieving equality for the LGBTQ+ community.

One of the most important and earliest legislations to offer some form of protection for homosexual people was the French Penal Code of 1791. Although the law was not specifically meant to protect lesbians and gays, it was written on the principle that the state should not intervene in the private affairs of individuals, indirectly decriminalizing same-sex sexual acts.

The Napoleonic Code replaced the French Penal Code in 1804, which retained the principle that private acts should remain private. This code was used in territories occupied by France at the time, such as parts of Germany and Italy, and it influenced the legal codes that various European countries use even today.

In 62 of the 193 countries we analyzed, same-sex sexual acts are criminalized and punishable by law. Our research showed that homosexuality is considered illegal in 55.55% of African countries and 47.61% of Asian nations.

Similarly, consensual same-sex sexual acts are punishable by law in 18.18% of the countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean and 42.85% of those in Oceania. On the other hand, none of the countries in Europe and North America outlaw homosexuality.

In 50 countries around the world, homosexuality is punished with a jail sentence, while 12 countries have provisions for the death penalty. They are Afghanistan, Brunei Darussalam, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Uganda, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. These are Muslim-majority countries that follow the Sharia law or a variation of it, which prohibits homosexuality. However, not all of them actively execute the death penalty.

Brunei Darussalam, for instance, used to punish homosexuality with up to 10 years in prison until 2019, when it included death by stoning as a possible punishment. This change spurred a widespread international backlash against the law, with high-profile celebrities like George Clooney and Elton John urging a boycott of luxury Brunei-owned hotels abroad.

As a result, the country’s ruler, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, imposed an indefinite moratorium on the death penalty. Similarly, a “de facto moratorium” on executions has been in place since 1987 in Mauritania.

graphic overviewing the criminalization of same-sex acts around the world

Results Part 2. Protection from Discrimination

While there has been significant progress in decriminalizing the sexual lives of LGBTQ+ individuals, they still experience marginalization in their everyday lives.

For instance, only 84 of the 193 analyzed countries (43.52%) prohibit employment discrimination, including unfair practices in hiring, firing, payments, promotions, and job assignments. About a quarter (26.42%) of the 193 analyzed nations have laws against hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Similarly, 24.87% of the countries in our study offer protection against incitement.

Yet only 17 countries provide constitutional protection for LGBTQ+ people, officially banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Hate Crimes Motivated by Sexual Orientation Happen Every Day

According to StatCan, Canada registered over 400 hate crimes in 2021 — that’s 60% more than the previous year. The UK Home Office, for comparison, estimates that 24,102 hate crimes based on sexual orientation happened in England and Wales throughout 2022. This number, high as it may be, represents a nearly 8% decrease from the previous year.

Furthermore, only 20 of all analyzed countries (10.36%) have a legal ban on conversion therapies. In Malaysia, for example, there are state-sanctioned conversion therapy centers funded by the government, aiming to change the sexual orientation and gender identity of trans and queer individuals.

Luckily, a few countries have moved a step closer to banning conversion therapy. For example, in February 2022, several members of the Dutch parliament introduced a bill to ban conversion therapy. According to the bill, people who offer conversion therapy to gay and transgender people may face up to a year in prison. Similar bills have also been introduced in Croatia, Costa Rica, and the United Kingdom.

graphic explaining legal protections for LGBTQ people around the world

Results Part 3. Recognition of LGBTQ+ Partnerships

Same-sex marriage is legal in only 35 of the 193 countries we analyzed. Most recently, on February 16, 2024, Greece legalized same-sex marriage, making it the first Christian-Orthodox-majority country to do so. Greek LGBTQ+ couples can now also legally adopt children, despite some opposition from the Orthodox Church.

As of 2024, most countries in Europe recognize LGBTQ+ partnerships either by marriage or civil union (44% and 21% of European countries, respectively). Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Lithuania, Moldova, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Turkey, and Ukraine, on the other hand, have yet to allow LGBTQ+ people to marry.

As for other continents, South Africa is the only country in Africa that legally recognizes same-sex marriage, having legalized it in 2006. In Asia, only Israel has officially legalized civil unions, also in 2006. In 2023, a marriage equality bill was also introduced in South Korea, but it still hasn’t passed into law.

In Oceania, only two out of 14 countries (Australia and New Zealand) officially allow same-sex marriages. The Americas fare a little better, with 11 countries having provisions for marriage equality and another one (Bolivia) recognizing civil unions.

graphic showing the recognition status of LGBTQ couples around the world

However, the right to marry or form a civil union doesn’t necessarily give same-sex couples the right to adopt a child. For instance, joint adoption is illegal in Ecuador, despite same-sex marriage being legal. Similarly, in some countries where civil unions are recognized, such as Italy and Monaco, adoption remains out of reach for same-sex couples.

San Marino’s case is unique — it is the only country in our list where civil unions are legal, joint adoption is illegal, but LGBTQ+ people can still perform a second-parent adoption (when one adopts the biological child of their partner of the same sex).

In summary, a significant number of countries in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa afford little to no legal protection and rights to LGBTQ+ individuals. On the other hand, European countries seem consistently more progressive when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights.

Legal Rights of Transgender and Non-Binary People

The American Psychological Association describes the word transgender as an umbrella term for “persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.”

On the other hand, non-binary individuals are people who do not identify exclusively as male or female, and they are sometimes referred to as third gender. The laws reviewed in this section pertain to either transgender or non-binary people — or both.

Approximately 40% of the 193 countries we analyzed offer Legal Gender Recognition (LGR) — the right of trans and gender-diverse people to change their name and gender marker on official identity documents to correspond with their identity.

Interestingly, Asian and African countries seem more open to legally supporting people who want to change their gender marker rather than people who want to marry someone who shares their gender identity. Six countries in Africa and 19 countries in Asia afford LGR to those who request it. The same is true for Europe, where 38 out of 48 countries legally recognize a change in name and gender.

When it comes to North America, though, Canada offers legal gender recognition, while the United States is limited in this regard, as it varies by state. Furthermore, 12 Latin American countries offer LGR, although this doesn’t necessarily mean they are trans-friendly countries. Brazil and Mexico, for instance, have some of the highest rates of trans murders.

Out of the 83 countries included in the Trans Murder Monitoring project, Honduras has the largest number of victims — 11.48 trans people murdered per one million inhabitants. Next on the list are El Salvador (9.29), Brazil (8.59), Mexico (5.53), and Belize (5.12). In fact, Fiji (2.25) is the only country in the top 20 that is not Latin American.

At the other end of the scale, Japan has the least number of trans people killed, with 0.008 murders per million inhabitants. China comes second (0.011), followed by Iran (0.012) and Algeria (0.023). This, of course, considering only the 83 countries included in the study. Sadly, the majority of countries around the world don’t obtain or share transgender-specific data.

This is a clear indicator that, even though some countries are making steps in the right direction regarding trans rights, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of the wider safety of trans and gender non-conforming people in these societies.

Note: The next part of our research, we focused only on 27 countries, which offer a bigger wealth of trans-specific information than the rest: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Uzbekistan.

Legal Gender Recognition

Of the 27 countries we analyzed, 19 (70.37%) have legal or administrative measures in place to recognize transgender people. However, each country imposes different requirements for legal recognition. For instance, 12 of those 19 countries require a mental health diagnosis, 4 require invasive sterilization procedures, and 8 require married transgender people to get a divorce before allowing them to change their gender.

The ideal is for LGR to be allowed on the basis of self-determination — that is, the right of a person to determine their own gender legally, without being subjected to a clinical diagnosis, medical interventions, or any type of third-party involvement from a judge, qualified assessor, or medical expert. This is available in just 5 of the 27 analyzed countries: Belgium, Finland, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland.

However, Germany is also actively working towards self-determination. In April 2024, Germany passed a law that makes it much easier for transgender individuals to change gender legally. Under the new law, trans adults can change their gender simply by notifying authorities 3 months before. Until the new legislation comes into effect, though, trans people must get the approval of two psychiatrists to change their gender legally.

Germany is also the only country on our list that recognizes non-binary individuals.

Note: Gender expression—i.e., one’s right to express one’s gender identity through clothing, pronouns, behavior, name, or body characteristics—is legally recognized in only 29.62% of the 27 analyzed countries.


Many of the countries included in our research have some form of non-discrimination laws for transgender and non-binary people. Specifically, 70% of them prohibit any form of discrimination in employment based on gender identity, 59% ban discrimination in education, and another 59% call for equal access to goods and services. Furthermore, about half of the 27 countries analyzed have non-discrimination laws for healthcare and housing (52% and 44%, respectively).

Interestingly, although 16 countries (63%) have equality bodies or similar public institutions designed to promote equality and tackle discrimination against the transgender community, only 4 of them have a current, active, and measurable equality action plan. These countries are France, Germany, Greece, and the Netherlands.

Hate Crimes and Speech

Only a third of the 27 selected countries have laws banning hate crimes and hate speech against gender-diverse people. Another three countries (Georgia, Germany, and Serbia) have laws prohibiting hate crimes only. The rest of the countries offer transgender and non-binary people limited or no legal protection in this matter.

Depathologization and Conversion Therapy

Sadly, none of the countries included in our research have de-pathologized transgender identities — that is, they still consider being transgender a mental illness.

Furthermore, conversion therapy is prohibited in only 6 of the analyzed countries — Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Portugal, and Spain — and transgender parenthood is only legally recognized in 3 nations: Belgium, Finland, and Sweden. None of the countries included in our research recognize non-binary parenthood.

graphic summarizing legal protections for trans and non-binary people around the world

Online Threats to LGBT People

LGBTQ+ people frequently face online threats and harassment. A recent report commissioned by UltraViolet, GLAAD, Kairos, and Women’s March found that LGBTQ+ people (along with women and people of color) experience higher levels of online harassment and threats than other groups.

According to the report, up to 57% of people in the US have seen social media posts calling for physical violence based on an individual’s sexuality, race, or gender. However, not all users see the same amount of incitement on social media.

For instance, up to 88% of the LGBTQ+ respondents said they had seen a social media post insulting or attacking LGBTQ+ people, but only 64% of the base sample claimed the same. Furthermore, 23% of LGBTQ+ respondents have experienced sexual harassment online, compared to just 8% of the base sample.

According to another report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) and the Human Rights Campaign, X (formerly known as Twitter) is enabling digital hate against the LGBTQ+ community.

The research found over 1.7 million tweets (posted over the span of 2022) that mention LGBTQ+ people alongside hateful slurs like “groomer,” “pedophile,” and “predator.” Some of these tweets reached 72 million users. Furthermore, this grooming narrative has increased by 119% since Elon Musk’s takeover, generating up to $6.4 million per year for X in ad revenue.

There have been numerous instances where online hate and harassment directed at the LGBTQ+ community has led to violence in real life. For example, the far-right and anti-LGBT account Libs falsely claimed on social media that Boston’s Children’s Hospital was providing gender-affirming hysterectomies to minors. Afterwards, the hospital received a bomb threat, and the staff was subjected to threats and harassment for months.

Furthermore, a report by Human Rights Watch covering five countries in the Middle East and North Africa (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia) found significant evidence of government officials targeting LGBTQ+ individuals based on their online and social media posts. Victims were subjected to harassment, sexual assaults, and unjust arrests by authorities and security forces.

How to Stay Safe Online

If you are a part of the LGBTQ+ community or a parent of an LGBTQ+ child, it’s essential you become familiar with how to stay safe online. For instance, you can filter out the abuse by blocking and reporting abusive users, manually removing hateful comments, reporting the incident to the social media platform, and creating private lists and groups to keep sensitive information away from abusers.

United States: A Mixed Bag of LGBTQ+ Rights

In 2023, Gallup conducted a telephone survey encompassing more than 12,000 people in the US aged 18 or older. The survey found that LGBTQ+ identification is at an all-time high, with up to 7.6% of respondents declaring a sexual orientation other than heterosexual. Among the country’s LGBTQ+ population, the most common sexual identity is bisexual (57.3%), followed by gay (18%) and lesbian (15%).

The survey also found that millennials and Gen Zers are more likely to identify as LGBTQ+ than older generations. Now, up to 22.3% of Gen Z adults and 9.8% of millennials openly identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. The same is true for just 2.3% of baby boomers.

Furthermore, the numbers vary between genders. According to the survey, 28.5% of Gen Z women in the US identify as LGBTQ+, compared to 10.6% of Gen Z men. In other words, women are more likely than men to identify as LGBTQ+.

States that implement pro-LGBTQ+ policies are also more likely to report a higher percentage of trans people. The conducive legal environment helps create a more tolerant and accepting atmosphere for transgender people to come out.

Recognition and Rights

The US has federal laws and rulings that grant significant rights to the LGBTQ+ community in several areas, most of which were only enacted in the last 15 years. One example is the abolition of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 2011, which prohibited LGBTQ+ people in the military from openly talking about their gender identity or sexuality. It is now legal to do so without it resulting in discharge from the army.

Another example is the age of consent for sexual acts, which used to be higher for homosexual couples. For example, up until 2013, homosexual couples in Nevada could not have consensual sex legally until both parties were 18+ years old, even though heterosexual couples in the same state could do so starting from 16 years old. Nowadays, the age of consent is set as a fixed standard regardless of sexual orientation across all 50 states.

The 2015 Obergefell vs. Hodges case was a landmark Supreme Court ruling that effectively legalized same-sex marriages in all 50 states. Same-sex couples now have the same rights as heterosexual couples in a marriage. The ruling also paved the way for same-sex couples to jointly adopt in several states.

However, each state has different legal provisions for adoption. For example, adoption agencies are given a religious exemption to refuse adoption to LGBTQ+ couples in Alabama, Kansas, Michigan, and Texas. Meanwhile, the criteria for second-parent adoption, which is when a person adopts their partner’s child without terminating the rights of the first parent, varies by state. For instance, Oklahoma and South Carolina require the couple to be married first.

Rise of Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills

The number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced at the state level has increased dramatically, with over 500 bills being processed in the first half of 2024, surpassing the previous year’s record. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 571 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in 2023, and 77 of them were signed into law. For comparison, only 253 pro-LGBTQ+ bills were filed over the same period, and 50 were passed into law.

One possible explanation for the increase in anti-LGBTQ+ bills is the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn “Roe vs. Wade”. This shift — made in June 2022 — effectively removed women’s constitutional right to have an abortion, leaving the legal decision to state governments instead.

Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the Supreme Court judges who supported the reversal, wrote that the withdrawal of abortion rights left the door open towards overturning other Supreme Court precedents. In other words, same-sex acts and gay marriages could stop being legal in the US, should the corresponding rulings be overturned.

This development may have emboldened religious factions and anti-LGBTQ+ groups to target the existing rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

Protection from Discrimination

1. Blood Donation Discrimination

Back in the 1980s, the United States banned gay and bisexual men from donating blood due to a heightened fear of bloodborne diseases such as AIDS. In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed the ban but with a deferral period of one year. This meant that gay or bisexual men could only donate blood and tissue as long as they had not had sex with other men in the last 12 months.

LGBTQ+ advocates and civil rights groups argued that this practice is discriminatory, as every blood sample is always screened for antibodies and infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV. In May 2023, the FDA revised its guidelines to screen a potential blood donor based on their personal risk assessment, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

2. Conversion Therapies

Conversion therapy is the controversial practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity so it adjusts to traditional norms. This practice is considered pseudoscience, as there is no scientific evidence that it works, and has been condemned by various organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy.

Furthermore, these “therapies” are harmful to a person’s mental health and can lead to depression, anxiety, or suicide. A study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found that non-transgender LGB people who have undergone conversion therapy are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to their peers.

Sadly, conversion therapies are still common in some societies. About 7% of LGB adults have endured it in one form or another — 81% of them received it from a religious leader; and 31% from a healthcare provider.

As such, conversion therapies have been fully banned in 23 states and partially banned in another four (Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Wisconsin). Most of the remaining states have no laws that ban such practices, making it technically legal to do so — except for Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, which have a “negative law” in place. This legal resource prohibits future bans of conversion therapies.

3. Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The latest stats show that 21 states have laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Of the remaining ones, 17 states offer no protection to LGBTQ+ individuals, while 12 afford them limited protection in certain contexts. For example, the state of Wisconsin offers protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity.

When it comes to work, 33 states have state-level laws that ban employment discrimination in matters of hiring, promotion, termination, office conduct, and harassment. In the remaining states, LGBTQ+ people are safeguarded against discrimination due to a Federal Court ruling issued in 2020.

There are also 25 states with state-based laws that forbid housing discrimination in issues such as buying and selling properties, housing applications, rent increases, and disputes between tenants and landlords. The remaining half rely on Federal Court rulings to protect LGBTQ+ people from housing prejudice.

Meanwhile, people are allowed to change the gender listed on their birth certificates in 44 states. Of those 44, 12 states require sex reassignment surgery or sterilization to do so. Only 6 states — Florida, Kansas, Idaho, Montana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee — explicitly prohibit gender changes on birth certificates.

As for non-binary rights, 22 states include a third gender marker (“X”) on their driver’s license, but only 16 do so for birth certificates. In fact, three states (North Dakota, Oklahoma, and West Virginia) ban the possibility of including a third option on birth certificates.

Heatmap of the United States indicating in which state X can be used as a gender marker, and in which documents

According to the FBI’s annual crime report for 2022, anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes increased dramatically from the year before, with a 13.8% increase in reported incidents based on sexual orientation and a 32.9% increase in hate crimes based on gender identity.

The Impact of LGBTQ+ Criminalization and Discrimination

1. Poor Physical and Mental Health

Due to continued discrimination and prejudice by society, LGBT+ people are more likely to suffer from poor physical and mental health compared to non-LGBT+ individuals.

In a 2024 KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation) survey of 6,442 adults aged 18 to 64, which included 958 LGBT+ people, one-quarter (25%) of LGBT+ people reported being in fair or poor health, compared to 18% of non-LGBT+ individuals. Furthermore, up to 67% of LGBT+ people reported needing mental health services in the past two years, compared to 39% of non-LGBT people.

Sadly, up to 33% of LGBT+ adults reported unfair or disrespectful treatment from a healthcare provider in the past three years, which is twice as high as reported by non-LGBT individuals.

Additionally, in European countries that offer higher protection for LGBTQ+ rights, there were lower probabilities of positive HIV cases. Gay men who live in countries with anti-LGBTQ+ policies and structural stigmatization are less likely to get tested for HIV, get themselves educated on HIV prevention, or have access to such programs; they are also more likely to have poor mental health.

As of 2024, only 72 countries around the world have approved at least one PrEP product — this means a significant number of people who are at risk of HIV infection still do not have access to preventive medication.

2. Financial and Economic Losses

A US Census survey in 2021 revealed that LGBTQ+ individuals were more likely than non-LGBTQ+ individuals to earn a household income lower than $25,000 per year. They were also more likely to lose their jobs and experience tougher financial circumstances. These inequalities heightened when it came to transgenders as well as lesbian, gay, and bisexual people of color.

graphic summarizing LGBTQ rights in the workspace around the world

Finally, the Open for Business 2022 City Ratings found that cities that are more inclusive towards LGBTQ+ people are more competitive on a global scale, as they attract and retain the best talent. Countries with oppressive policies against LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience a loss of human capital due to people migrating to search for better legal protection and recognition.

Public Perception and Acceptance

Legal rights are just one part of the equation. Enacting pro-LGBTQ+ laws does not automatically remove societal stigma and prejudice. It is critical to understand what happens on the ground in terms of public perception and acceptance of LGBTQ+ communities so that we can work toward true equality.

Existing polls and surveys clearly show that public opinion varies according to region, religious background, culture, political ideology, and economic factors.

Shifting Attitudes Towards LGBTQ+ people

A study by the Williams Institute examined trends in public polls and surveys on LGBTQ+ acceptance from 1981 to 2020. Out of 175 countries, 35.42% had no change in the level of acceptance, 32.57% had a decrease in acceptance, and 32% had an increase in LGBTQ+ acceptance.

Specifically, countries in North and South America, Western Europe, and Oceania saw an increase in society’s average level of acceptance towards LGBTQ+ people. The remaining regions either experienced a slight decline or minimal change over 39 years.

Africa & LGBTQ+ Intolerance

According to a 2021 survey, Senegal is the most intolerant African country toward people of different sexual orientations, where a total of 98% of respondents stated they would dislike having homosexual people as neighbors. Over 90% of the respondents from Liberia, Malawi, Ghana, Mali, Guinea, Uganda, and Burkina Faso reported the same.

Unfortunately, this problem goes beyond Africa. For instance, according to the Levada Center, 38% of Russians claimed to be either scared or disgusted by homosexuality in 2021. Furthermore, an even higher percentage (66%) of the population would not accept a gay neighbor.

A 2019 study from Pew Research also examined the changing attitudes towards homosexuality, albeit on a smaller scale. After conducting surveys in 34 countries, the study found that between 2013 and 2019, societies in the Americas and Western Europe grew more accepting compared to those in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa. On the other hand, societies in the Asia-Pacific region are generally split on this issue.

Still, compared to 2002, when the survey was last conducted, even less accepting countries have seen an increase in acceptance of homosexuality. For instance, between 2002 and 2019, South Africa and South Korea saw a 21-point and a 19-point increase, respectively. LGBT acceptance in Mexico and Japan also grew significantly in this period. In 2002, just over half the population accepted homosexuality, compared to approximately 70% in 2019.

Kenya has also made significant progress – in 2002, only one in 100 people claimed to accept homosexuality, compared to 14% in recent years. In India, the question was first asked in 2014, and since then, there has been a 22-point increase in acceptance.

Same-Sex Marriage and Adoption Acceptance

An LGBTQ+ Global Survey conducted by Ipsos looked at several issues, including marriage equality and adoption for LGBTQ+ couples. This 2021 poll had more than 19,000 participants from 27 countries, some of which have fewer laws protecting LGBTQ+ rights, like Russia, China, India, Turkey, and Malaysia. Due to the nature of the online poll, participants tended to reside in urban areas and be more educated and affluent than the general population.

Overall, more than half of respondents (54%) said same-sex marriage should be legal, whereas 16% are against it but support some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples. Another 16% are against any form of legal recognition, while the remaining 14% are unsure.

Interestingly, the opinions of the majority do not reflect the legal reality in some countries. For instance, 69% of people in Japan agree that same-sex couples should be legally recognized, yet neither marriage nor civil unions are allowed in the country. Peru (68%) and Poland (67%) are in the same situation.

Furthermore, countries where same-sex marriage is legal still have residents who don’t agree with it. In the US, for instance, only 6 in 10 adults viewed it as at least “somewhat good” for society in 2022. A different source calculated support towards same-sex marriages at 71% that same year, claiming it to be an all-time-high acceptance rate.

The Ipsos survey also explored people’s opinions beyond same-sex partnerships. According to the results, 61% agreed that same-sex couples should have the same rights to adopt as heterosexual couples, 31% disagreed, and 8% were unsure. As for parenting, 62% agreed that same-sex couples would be successful in raising any children they adopted.


In recent years, LGBTQ+ individuals have gained more legal rights in Western countries in terms of anti-discrimination laws and same-sex marriage recognition. While countries in Africa and Asia are slow to accept and recognize LGBTQ+ people, the general trend seems to be a growing positive attitude to embrace them, especially from people who are wealthier, more educated, and less religious.

The effects of marginalizing and discriminating against LGBTQ+ communities are far-ranging, from poorer health for the victims to a high missed-opportunity cost for countries.

Thus, it is critical to advance LGBTQ+ rights, especially given the detrimental effects discrimination brings and the growing number of people who identify as LGBTQ+. Achieving social equality should be a top priority for all countries.

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