William & Mary

Liberal Democracy and LGBT Rights in the Americas

Professor Javier Corrales

Over the past decade, countries throughout the Americas have adopted broader legal protections and recognition of LGBTx people. Recently evangelical Christian and Catholic groups have aligned to oppose and reverse this trajectory.

Addressing this area, Professor Javier Corrales presented the 2017 Boswell Lecture, "Friend and Foe: Liberal Democracy and LGBT Rights in the Americas," during Homecoming Weekend. Corrales is the Dwight W. Morrow 1895 Professor of Political Science at Amherst College. The lecture was funded in part by the Arts & Sciences Annual Fund.

Professor Corrales gave an historical overview of expanded LGBTx rights in these countries, described the related rise of new forms of homo/transphobia, and offered his assessment of possible trends countering the conserative response.

The Gay Friendliness Index provides a score ranging from 0 (no friendliness) to 100 (top friendliness) based on the ILGA's nine areas and Javier Corrales' research, including the LGBT Rights in the Americas Timeline, Amherst College.He presented a tiered ranking of the "gay friendliness index" in the Americas in 2015. The United States is placed in the second tier. The top tier includes Mexico, Canada, and four South American countries. The index combines nine pro-LGBTx legal rights, identified by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA), with research on public opinions toward same-sex marriage and Corrales' own work on the LGBT Rights in the Americas Timeline (Amherst College).

A scattergraph mapping the friendliness scores against the percentage of the population that is evangelical reveals a startling correlation. Consistently, the lower the percentage of evangelicals in a given country, the higher the gay friendliness score.

Corrales noted that the increasing popularity of evangelical Christianity in parts of the Americas is relatively recent — and potent. Also new is the emerging alliance between these groups and the Catholic Church, which have cooperated on public information campaigns opposed to what they are framing as "gender ideology" imposed by courts and bureaucrats without the affirmation of citizens' votes.

What will happen next? For younger people, LGBTx rights generally do not excite the same kind of concern that can be found in older populations. Political parties are beginning to expand their umbrellas to include LGBTx rights as being consistent with their values. And the private sector, previously absent from the discussion, appears to be leaning toward the transnational perspective of greater inclusion.