Countries with Greater Gender Equality Have More Positive Attitudes and Laws Concerning Lesbians and Gay Men

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Sex Roles






Social scientists have long discussed and empirically demonstrated how attitudes toward lesbians and gay men are determined in part by sexism and endorsement of gender roles, but only at the psychological level of analysis. We present data that considers these relationships at the cross-national level of analysis, using country-level measures of gender equality (the Gender Global Gap Index), aggregate measures of attitudes toward lesbians and gay men in a country, and a newly constructed measure of the progressiveness of sexual orientation laws. We show for the first time to our knowledge that countries that have the greatest gender equality also have (a) the most positive aggregate attitudes toward lesbians and gay men and (b) the strongest legislative protections for lesbians and gay men. These results hold even when controlling for plausible third variables such as a country’s level of religiosity and its economic and political development, each with their own separate effects. We discuss the results within the context of the various forces that contribute to, and work against, ensuring more accepting attitudes of, and equal rights for, lesbians and gay men. In conclusion, to fully understand support for lesbians and gay men and the laws that protect them, one should also consider how women are treated in a country.