Gay Rights: Why Democracy Matters

Issue Date July 2014
Volume 25
Issue 3
Page Numbers 90-104
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The year 2013 featured unprecedented strides for gay rights in some parts of the world, particularly in Western Europe and the Americas, but also startling setbacks elsewhere, as in Russia and some countries in Africa. Wealth and religion are the most discussed factors behind this so-called global divide on homosexuality. Less studied and therefore less understood, however, is the effect of the political regime, especially whether the country is democratic or not. Although gay rights are not found in all democracies, gay rights are virtually nonexistent in nondemocracies. Among the many factors that make democracy an apparent prerequisite for gay rights are the opportunities that it provides for advocacy—including access to the courts, the party system, and the legislature—as well as a social environment that permits gay people to live their lives openly and honestly, a critical but often overlooked factor in advancing societal acceptance of homosexuality.

About the Author

Omar G. Encarnación is the Charles Flint Kellogg professor of politics at Bard College. He is the author of Democracy without Justice in Spain: The Politics of Forgetting (2014) and Out in the Periphery: Latin America’s Gay Rights Revolution (2016).

View all work by Omar G. Encarnación