U.S. Ranks 45th in Countries Friendliest for LGBTQ Community to Travel to

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By Kate Harveston

U.S. Ranks Way Lower on List of Friendliest Countries for LGBTQ Community Than It Should — But Are We Surprised?

How do you measure the greatness of a country? Some nations achieve what they call exceptionalism by spending more on their military each year than the next ten countries combined. Perhaps a much more rational and civilized definition of exceptionalism — one which is taking root in most of Europe and elsewhere in much of the developed world — is the willingness to treat all people with respect and to protect the dignity of human life, whatever form it may take.

The year is 2019, but the United States and many other countries are still having trouble with this concept. Of particular interest is the way LGBTQ discrimination is baked right into our culture and our laws. And now we can prove it — with numbers.

How Are Countries Ranked?

The 2019 installment of the Spartacus Gay Travel Index looked at 197 countries throughout the world and quantified how welcoming each one is to native and visiting members of the LGBTQ community. The 14 factors which informed these rankings included the following:

  • Active, state-organized persecution
  • A lack of workplace anti-discrimination laws
  • The presence of laws which curtail the right to marry or form a civil partnership
  • Laws which prevent some individuals and couples from adopting
  • Failure to protect transgender individuals from general persecution or exclusion

Let’s take a look at the most welcoming countries in the world for the LGBTQ community.

How Do Other Nations of the World Rank?

Which nations took the top spots in 2019’s Spartacus Gay Travel Index? Here are the top six finishers:

  1. Canada
  2. Portugal
  3. Sweden
  4. Austria
  5. Belgium
  6. Denmark

This ranking is actually a bit misleading — the first three countries tied for “first place,” while Austria, Belgium and Denmark tied with ten other countries for “second.” That’s how stiff the competition is these days.

But performing well here requires countries to commit themselves to a small set of simple, humanistic principles. And that means the United States ranks, predictably, toward the bottom.

America Isn’t a Failed State — but It’s Failing

So, you’re probably wondering — Where does the United States fall on this list?

Like the top contenders, the competition was fierce at the bottom of the rankings, too. The U.S. stands tied with nine other nations for 45th place. We find ourselves in the company of:

  • Bermuda
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Costa Rica
  • Cuba
  • Macao
  • Chile
  • Seychelles
  • Thailand
  • Croatia

This isn’t the whole story, though. The U.S. ranked number 34 in 2017 and number 39 in 2018. We now stand at number 45.

The Countries at the Bottom

There is precisely one direction a country should be moving when it comes to making an appearance on this list — up. In a perfect world, every country on earth would be tied for first place. Even silver or bronze would perhaps do in an almost perfect world.

If you want some good news, it arrives in the form of “It could be worse.” A lot worse. Chechnya, ranked at number 197, is the most hostile nation on earth for members of the LGBTQ community. The other countries at the bottom of the list include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen and Somalia. However, is “it could be worse” the standard we should be measuring ourselves against? I’ll give you a hint: Absolutely not. However, it’s increasingly becoming the refrain we hear in response to complaints about the way America’s government and society functions.

For years, groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been calling to remove Saudi Arabia from its Human Rights Council, in which it still inexplicably holds a position of leadership. And the reasons couldn’t be clearer — leadership in Saudi Arabia and these other poorly-ranked countries actively engage in the murder and persecution of members of the LGBTQ community and other disadvantaged groups such as women. During the presidency of Barack Obama, the Saudis literally crucified a man for, among other things, engaging in consensual gay sex.

So, we’re doing better than the absolute worst — is that enough?

This could have been an opportunity for the United States to lead by example, improve its own stance on LGBTQ rights, and call out one of our “prized allies” for their gross violations of human rights and decency. Instead, U.S. leadership sells billions of dollars in high-powered weaponry to the Saudis. These actions have cemented our commitment to a 70-plus-year alliance, and through deafening silence about these grisly murders, sent a clear message to some of the world’s most vulnerable people:

“We won’t just turn our back on you — we delight in selling heavy weapons to your oppressors.”

We Dig Our Hole Deeper

As mentioned, the United States has fallen in these rankings for years now. And according to the activists responsible for the Spartacus Travel Index, even very recent current events are driving this downward spiral.

The decision of the Trump administration to discriminate against transgender would-be servicemembers in the armed forces is a major black mark on our record. So is the fact that, while technology has made the egg donation process more accessible, deep-seated prejudice means all cannot enjoy the same accessibility. For example, even when these things are available, the waters can still get muddied even further by nitpicking about which side of a border — an invisible line that lives only in our imaginations — the father(s) happened to be born on.

Additionally, in the U.S., home of the free, there are no federal laws protecting LGBTQ individuals from being fired just for being themselves.

States can pass their own laws addressing these oversights, and choose to protect employees from workplace discrimination and getting fired for gender identity and sexual orientation, but so far fewer than half have done so. The Obama administration created legal protection for federal workers and contractors, but Trump and Republicans are doing their best to claw away even these paltry steps toward progress. This regime believes regulation in any form is the devil incarnate — including those that protect the most basic of human rights.

Change Is Imminent, but How Long Can We Wait?

America is not a nice place right now. In fact, the more we learn about ourselves, the more we have to realize we’ve never been a nice place. There is a huge gulf — and it’s only getting wider — between our collective national potential and what we’ve actually managed to achieve in the world. Look at the way we award protections for vulnerable individuals, piece by piece, and only after people begin marching in the streets. If all our laws don’t apply to all people, all at once, there’s arguably little point in having laws at all — or pretending we’re an enlightened country.

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