Among the 32 countries competing at the World Cup, there are only a handful of standout countries that protect the rights of their LGBT citizens.
I studied the competing World Cup countries and ranked them according to how they ensure the LGBT community has equal rights.
So, who wins the World Cup of LGBT rights? The same country that currently holds the World Cup championship.
The current laws in Spain champion the four policies tracked in my analysis.
I achieved the rankings by giving each country points for policies they have that protect the LGBT community. We looked for laws that legalized same sex intercourse; legal recognition for same sex relationships; protections against gender identity discrimination and whether same sex couples could adopt children. The dates policies were introduced were also considered in instances when more than one country earned the same number points.
Out of the 32 World Cup countries, only four have laws that recognize LGBT relationships, allow same sex couples to adopt and protect transgender individuals from discrimination. Spain rose to the top of the list because they introduced a same sex marriage law first in July 2005, followed by England, Argentina and Uruguay.
Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, signed Latin America’s first same-sex marriage law in 2010. The law was introduced over serious opposition from the archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who today is Pope Francis.
LGBT World Cup Top 10
To achieve these rankings I considered laws that provide equal rights for LGBT people, not cultural and societal acceptance which is crucial. I should note that because a country ranked high on the list it does not mean it’s a perfectly safe country for gays and lesbians.
Brazil for example ranks high on planning policies that protect the rights of gays and lesbians but implementation and cultural acceptance is stark.
"We've evolved a lot but there's still a strong sense of homophobia in Brazil," said Leandro Ramos, a campaign manager in Brazil for the international gay rights organization All Out. "The debate is happening but it's moving very slowly," Ramos explained.
Ramos noted Brazil has one of the highest LGBT murder rates in the world.
At least 338 LGBT people were murdered in Brazil in 2012, an average of one death for every 26 hours, according to a study by the Gay Group of Bahia that collected data from news reports. Ramos cautioned the numbers may be even higher but the findings can't be verified because Brazil has no system in place to track hate crimes.
And then there is U.S.
The United States comes in at 15th place.
While there has been progress with sex marriage, many states don’t have laws that protect gays, lesbians and transgender individuals from discrimination.
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage but only 18 states have statewide employment discrimination laws that protect employees from being fired based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The majority of states also have laws restricting the ability of LGBT people and same-sex couples to adopt children; only 19 states and D.C. permit same-sex couples to jointly adopt.
The four African countries and Iran are at the bottom of the list because they scored 0 points in my ranking. In these instances news stories and LGBT human rights reports were referenced to achieve the list of countries with the worst LGBT-equality laws.
It’s important to note that not all African countries incriminate gays and lesbians. In Côte d'Ivoire, for example, both male and female same-sex sexual activity is legal. The Ivory Coast is a former French colony and did not inherit sodomy laws from France, unlike many other African countries that were former British colonies.
Iran has laws that protect transgender Iranians once they start the gender-reassignment process but no other laws protect the LGBT community. Homosexuality is illegal in Iran and is punishable by death.
Advocates from the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center say there is a significant concern that gay and lesbian Iranians could be unnecessarily encouraged to undergo sex-reassignment surgeries.
Below you’ll find the full list of World Cup countries ranked according to federal policies that protect the rights of LGBT individuals.
Who Wins the World Cup of Gay Rights?
- Costa Rica
- Bosnia and Gerzegovina
- Côte d'Ivoire
- Korea Republic