Metro Weekly

United States Earns a “C” on LGBTQ Human Rights Scorecard

United States ranks below Western European and South American countries on analysis of LGBTQ protections across the globe.

Map of ratings on Franklin & Marshall’s Global Barometers report on LGBTQ protections – Photo: Franklin & Marshall College

A new report on the state of LGBTQ human rights ranks the United States fairly high in comparison to other countries but only results in a middling overall grade for the country as a whole.

The Franklin & Marshall Global Barometers Report gave the United States a “C,” or “resisting” grade, when it comes to protecting or promoting LGBTQ rights, while nearly two-thirds — 62% — of the 136 countries covered in the report received “F” grades for “persecuting” LGBTQ rights.

Despite ranking 31st out of 136 countries, the United States earned 74% on the barometer of gay rights, falling significantly behind other countries such as Austria, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Malta, Sweden, and Uruguay, all of which tied for first on the list with perfect scores of 100%.

It also ranks behind several other Western European or South American countries, including Ireland, Great Britain, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, and Argentina, which either won “A” or “B” grades for “protecting” or being “tolerant” of LGBTQ rights, respectively. 

When it comes to transgender rights, Luxembourg, Malta, and Norway earned perfect scores, with Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, North Macedonia, and Uruguay earning “A” scores.

Meanwhile, the United States only garnered 59% on the barometer of transgender rights, tying for 62nd out of 163 countries.

The data only covers 2011 to 2020. It was based on a survey of 167,000 queer people polled worldwide, looking at the “lived realities” of those respondents.

Information taken into account for the analysis of that survey includes the existence or lack of legal protections, the level of advocacy for LGBTQ rights in the country, the socioeconomic rights enjoyed by LGBTQ people, and whether LGBTQ people are societally persecuted.

Because the data only goes through 2020 — before the recent spate of anti-transgender legislation in various states, with more than 700 bills introduced this year alone — the United States may be headed toward a failing grade in future iterations of the study. 

“You’ll probably see a lot lower grades because if one state violates one of the items that we’re looking at, the whole country gets to zero, so there’ll be a downgrade for the United States,” Susan Dicklitch-Nelson — a professor of government at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and the study’s founder — told The 19th. 

Dicklitch-Nelson said Florida alone could lower the whole country’s human rights score due to the passage of various anti-transgender legislation and the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill banning classroom discussions of LGBTQ identity.

But she also noted that recent attempts to ban or restrict drag may be indicative of the fact that LGBTQ groups may no longer be able to gather safely in the country.

“With the anti-drag laws that they have in Tennessee and in Florida, a lot of LGBT rights organizations are not able to peacefully or safely assemble, or pride events are not allowed by the state,” she said. “And do security forces provide protection [for] LGBT Pride participants? Again, that varies…depending on state.”

According to The 19th, breakout data from the global survey indicates that, based on surveys of 13,809 LGBTQ people in the United States, that individual states are generally considered “resistant” to LGBTQ human rights. No individual state scored above a “C” grade, with nearly all getting “D” ratings — despite the presence of nondiscrimination laws on the books. 

The best state for LGBTQ residents, based on the ranking criteria, was Hawaii, followed closely by Maine and Massachusetts, while Idaho had the lowest score of all 50 states.

One of the factors influencing the overall score of the United States — even on gay rights — may be the lack of federal nondiscrimination protections, which have stalled in Congress since 1974.

For example, the Equality Act, a comprehensive bill prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ people in various facets of life, has twice passed the U.S. House of Representatives — though only when Democrats controlled the chamber — only to be waylaid in the U.S. Senate. 

By comparison, North Macedonia’s score on the Global Barometers Report jumped by 53%, from a failing grade to an “A” in 2020, after the country’s national legislature passed nondiscrimination protections in 2019.

The report also noted that there appears to be a correlation between countries that ranked the highest on their protections for LGBTQ rights and those that scored well in protecting democracy and promoting economic growth.

Dr. Anu Kumar, the president and CEO of Ipas, an international nonprofit advocating for reproductive rights, told The 19th that separate research by her organization shows that democracy is tied to human rights more broadly.

“We can’t really talk about these issues in silos,” Kumar said. “The anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQI movements are all part of the same broader attack on democracy. These things are connected.”

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