Iceland Tops the List of the Most LGBTQ-Friendly Countries
Pride month always brings about an outpouring of support for the LGBTQ from governments, corporations, and individuals every year—but how tolerant are countries towards this community in reality?
The Equality Index measures LGBTQ rights, laws, public attitudes, hate crimes, and more to create this index which reveals the least and most LGBTQ-friendly countries in the world at any time.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the top and the bottom of the Equality Index list of countries to see what landed them there, for better or worse. And after that, we’ll delve deeper into the laws regarding homosexuality, employment and housing discrimination, as well as marriage equality and traveling.
As of 2022, the top countries for LGBTQ people are listed as following:
Iceland is often considered to be one of the best places for LGBTQ people to live. The people of Iceland have very liberal attitudes towards the LGBTQ communities, and the country has recognized marriage equality between two individuals regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity since 2010, with the Church of Iceland following suit in 2015 to recognize full marriage equality.
In addition, same-sex couples have equal access to adoption and IVF, and there are laws in place to protect the LGBTQ from discrimination of any kind.
In Canada, same-sex relationships are legal and accepted, same-sex marriage is legal, as is adoption, and discrimination against an LGBTQ person is illegal. Overall, Canada is considered to be amongst the safest and most tolerant countries and amongst the best countries for LGBTQ people to live.
In addition, there are laws in place to protect people against discrimination due to sexual orientation or gender identity.
3. Isle of Man
The Isle of Man also has a progressive attitude towards LGBTQ rights. The island decriminalized homosexuality in 1992, and since then, has passed laws to protect LGBTQ people from employment discrimination (2006), introduced the right to adopt children and enter a civil partnership (2011), and civil marriage (2016).
Uruguay ranks as the fourth most LGBTQ-friendly country in the world. The country legalized same-sex marriage in 2013, and same-sex couple adoption was legalized in 2019.
The country has anti-discrimination laws in place to protect every individual’s rights regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and broadly champions LGBTQ equality and gay marriage rights on an international level.
The Least LGBTQ-Friendly Countries in the World
At the other end of the scale, there are still a high number of countries around the world that deem homosexuality illegal. The least friendly countries to the LGBTQ community are ranked as follows:
Afghanistan was already a dangerous place for LGBTQ people, but the danger was amplified even more when the Taliban took control of the country in August 2021. Same-sex sexual relations are criminalized, and many LGBTQ people have experienced abuse, discrimination, physical violence, and more because of their sexual orientation.
The Taliban state that homosexuality is against Sharia law—with those found to be “guilty” of homosexuality potentially facing the death penalty.
2. United Arab Emirates
In the United Arab Emirates, sexual acts between people of the same sex are illegal, and legislation to protect individuals from discrimination does not extend to sexual orientation or gender identity. In this country, the death penalty still exists under Sharia law, although as far as the international community is aware, this penalty has not been applied to same-sex sexual act cases.
Brunei is considered the third least LGBTQ-friendly country. It criminalizes LGBTQ people, same-sex sexual activity, and gender expression of trans people, and imposes a maximum penalty of death by stoning.
Saudi Arabia prohibits same-sex seuxal acitivity under Sharia law, with the maximum penalty being the death penalty for both men and women. Trans people may also be prosecuted for not adhering to the country’s strict dress code under Sharia.
Criminalization of Homosexuality
There are still many countries around the world in which homosexuality is illegal. In 69 countries, there are laws that deem homosexuality illegal, with imprisonment being the main punishment. Bizarrely, in 18 regions, male homosexuality is illegal, but female homosexuality is legal.
In 9 countries, the death penalty is still a potential punishment for homosexuality. These countries are Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Mauritania, and Somalia.
General LGBTQ Discrimination
LGBTQ discrimination occurs when someone is treated unfairly because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is deemed as illegal in 81 countries around the world and illegal in some contexts in a further 50 regions.
However, there are still 97 countries or territories in which LGBTQ people are offered no protection from discrimination, which include Afghanistan, Russia, Jamaica, Zambia, and Paraguay.
Even in countries where discrimination is illegal, many people still experience it. A 2020 American Progress study found that more than one in four LGBTQ Americans had faced discrimination of some kind in the past year.
LGBTQ Employment Discrimination
Employment discrimination can occur if an LGBTQ person is passed over for a job, treated unfairly, or not given equal opportunities because of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
Across the world, jobs for LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination in 89 countries/territories. In 85 countries, there are no protections for this community from employment discrimination, while 28 countries have some protections.
In the US, employers with 15 or more employees are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sex, while some courts have also extended this to include a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Many states also have laws that ban employment discrimination against LGBTQ people.
LGBTQ Housing Discrimination
Sadly, housing discrimination is something many LGBTQ people continue to face around the world. Without protections in place, many more people within the community may struggle to get a roof over their head and find fair rental housing.
Past studies in the US showed that housing providers were slightly less likely to schedule appointments with gay men, and quoted higher rental costs than they did with heterosexual men. In addition, 31% of respondents in a 2022 LGBTQ finances study confirmed that one of their top three financial worries is not being able to buy a home.
Across the world, 96 countries have laws and protections in place to ensure LGBTQ people do not face housing discrimination. In contrast, 106 countries have no protections, meaning that in these countries, someone may be discriminated against when seeking housing due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
According to the Gay Tavel Index (2021), Canada comes out on top as the safest country for LGBTQ tourists. It beats the best-ranking European countries for the LGBTQ community to travel to, which are Malta, Portugal, and Spain. Interestingly, seven out of the nine top countries that are LGBTQ-friendly are located in Europe.
In contrast, a ranking from Forbes lists Nigeria, Qatar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Tanzania as the five most dangerous places for LGBTQ travelers. In Nigeria, even discussing gay rights is criminalized, while simply being gay can result in a penalty of up to 14 years in prison.
The Gay Travel Index also ranks US states individually based on a number of factors including anti-discrimination legislation, transgender rights, local’s attitudes, and hate crime laws. Out of all states ranked, California ranks as the best state for LGBTQ people, while Wyoming ranks at the bottom.
Remarkably, same-sex marriage was not legal anywhere in the world until after the turn of the Millenium. The Netherlands was the first country to categorize same-sex partners as eligible for marriage in 2001, after first recognizing civil unions for same-sex partners in 1999.
How many countries around the world have same-sex marriage equality?
Over 20 years on, there are 51 countries where gay marriage is legal. In 71 countries, same-sex marriage and homosexual civil unions are still illegal, while 105 countries or territories have laws somewhere in between the two stances.
As of 2018, our same-sex marriage maps show how Italy is one of the only major countries to still ban gay marriages in Europe (couples may only marry through a civil union in this country).
When was same-sex marriage legalized in the UK?
In the UK, the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act was passed on 17th July 2013, witht he first marriages of same-sex couples taking place on Saturday, 29th March 2014.
The act enables same-sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies, ensures religious organizations who wish to marry same-sex couples can do so, enables civil partners to convert their partnership to a marriage, and enables individuals to change their legal gender without having to end their marriage.
Where is gay marriage legal in the US?
In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in the civil rights case Obergefell vs Hodges, that the right to marry is guaranteed to all same-sex couples. However, this decision is not abided by all states in the US.
In the US, there are 37 states which have legalized gay marriage. 13 have not, which are: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. However, these bans are considered void because of the Obergefell v. Hodges case.
Is gay marriage legal in Mexico?
Same-sex marriage is legal in some states in Mexico. Last year, Sonora became the 23rd state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage following a Supreme Court ruling. However, according to Reuters, there are still 10 remaining states that do not currently allow same-sex marriage.