Go Dutch to Find the Best LGBT-Friendly Place to Live

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Gay Pride celebration in Amsterdam.

West Hollywood may be a charming little gay enclave, but the country in which we sit doesn’t measure well overall in Gallup’s recent survey of places that are good for gays.

In the survey, results of which were released last week, gay and lesbian people were asked: “Is the city or area where you live a good place or not a good place to live for gay or lesbian people?”

The winner was the Netherlands, where 83 percent of respondents answered “yes” about the city or area in which they lived in that country. The five top-ranked countries were Iceland (82 percent), Canada (80 percent), Spain (79 percent), the United Kingdom (77 percent) and Ireland (75 percent).

The United States ranked 12th in Gallup’s sample of opinions in 123 countries (the survey wasn’t conducted in Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Nigeria, Bahrain, Bhutan, Iraq, Kuwait, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Yemen, where the question was too dangerous to ask.)

The countries with the lowest rankings were Senegal and Pakistan (1 percent) and Uganda, Mali, Indonesia, Ethiopia and Afghanistan (each at 2 percent).

Europe apparently leads the world in gay and lesbian friendliness. “Of the countries where three in four or more residents feel their area is hospitable to gay and lesbian people, all but Canada are in Europe, and all but Ireland (75 percent) have marriage equality laws,” Gallup said. “In Ireland, voters will cast their ballots on a referendum in 2015, and the country could join their European neighbors in allowing marriage equality by next year.”

Gallup noted that the Netherlands, where more than eight in 10 residents say their local communities are good places for gays or lesbians to live, was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001. “As of 2013, Iceland (82 percent), Canada (80 percent), Spain (79 percent), the United Kingdom (77 percent) and Belgium (74 percent) had legalized gay marriage,” it said.

“By contrast, in many of the countries where the residents are least likely to feel their city or area is a ‘good place,’ it is illegal to be openly gay,” Gallup reported. “For example, ‘an improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex,’ as Senegal’s anti-gay law dictates, can be punished with up to five years in prison and fines of up to $3,000. Laws that allow for the imprisonment of gay and lesbian people are also on the books in Pakistan — where 1 percent say their area is a good place for gay people to live — Uganda (2 percent), Ethiopia (2 percent) and Afghanistan (2 percent).” Almost all of the countries at the bottom of the list are in Africa or the Middle East.

“These latest findings show that for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) people around the world, being open about their sexual orientation or gender identity likely comes with substantial risk,” said Gary Gates, a Williams Distinguished Scholar at the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. “This helps to explain why legal and social change toward greater acceptance toward LGBT people can be so elusive in regions of the world like much of the African continent. When the vast majority of residents believe a country is not a good (and likely safe) place for gay and lesbian people, LGBT visibility remains low and progress toward a more supportive climate can be painfully slow.”

Survey results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in each country, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2009 and 2013. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error ranges from plus or minus 2.1 percentage points to plus or minus 5.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.