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From Death Penalty to Legal Marriage: LGBT Politics in a Global Perspective

39 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 10 Oct 2011

Enze Han

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Joseph O'Mahoney

Brown University

Date Written: 2011


Many countries, especially in the West, have provided legal recognition of same sex unions, albeit in different forms. However, there are still many countries where homosexual activities are criminalized with different levels of penal punishment, including the death penalty. Why do some countries have severe punishment of homosexual activities while other countries have adopted legal protection of equal rights such as gay marriage? This study utilizes a newly constructed dataset of the legal status of LGBT people in 185 countries to explore the sources of this variation. What cross-national factors are associated with the current legal status of LGBT relationships? Are rich countries more likely to have legal protection for LGBT relationships than poor countries due to post-industrial values? Are democracies more protective of different expressions of sexuality than authoritarian ones? Or does the LGBT issue hinge on religiosity or different types of religious denominations? Our findings indicate the legal treatment of LGBT people is highly correlated with regime type; religiosity and prevalence of certain religious denominations; a country’s legal tradition; modernization and economic development; as well as the extent to which a country is enmeshed with the international human rights regime.

Suggested Citation

Han, Enze and O'Mahoney, Joseph, From Death Penalty to Legal Marriage: LGBT Politics in a Global Perspective (2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN:

Enze Han (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

Joseph O'Mahoney

Brown University ( email )

Box 1844
Providence, RI 02912
United States

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