The Global Gay-Rights Revolution

Israelis participate in the annual Gay Pride parade along the streets of Tel Aviv Photograph by Daniel Bar-On/backyard

As the U.S. Supreme Court held oral arguments over California’s same-sex marriage laws last week, the questions posed by the Justices suggested how far and fast the debate over gay rights had shifted. In 1971, the Supremes unanimously dismissed a same-sex marriage case, during an era when many states still criminalized homosexual sex. This time, even some of the Court’s more conservative judges gave gay marriage opponents a grilling. The changed tone reflects a dramatic evolution in U.S. popular opinion: Support for gay marriage in the U.S. has approximately doubled since 1996, reaching 53 percent in 2011. In this, Americans are hardly exceptional—in fact, compared with a number of other countries, in Europe and Latin America in particular, the U.S. is a laggard when it comes to attitudes toward gay rights. The decline of homophobia is a truly global revolution.

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