The world has been transformed in many ways in the 50 years since the uprising at the Stonewall Inn, with major shifts in the past decade alone on every continent.
Same-sex marriage is now a reality throughout most of Western Europe, much of the Americas, as well as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
In May, Taiwan began allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, a first for Asia, and in the past year, India’s Supreme Court ruled to decriminalize homosexuality.
But some governments are moving in the opposite direction and restricting rights.
Here’s a look at the major events of the past year.
Kenya’s High Court surprised many observers in May when it unanimously upheld a law punishing gay sex with up to 14 years in prison. Kenya’s courts had previously made moves to expand rights, such as allowing an advocacy group, the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, to register as a nongovernmental organization and barring the police from subjecting people suspected of homosexuality to anal exams.
But other countries in Africa have taken steps to decriminalize homosexuality. In June, the High Court of Botswana struck down the country’s sodomy law. Angola eliminated its sodomy law in January and passed legislation that punishes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation with up to two years in prison.
A law took effect in the small Southeast Asian nation of Brunei in April that would punish homosexuality and adultery with death by stoning.
The country’s ruler, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, has tried to quell an international outcry by vowing not to enforce the law. But human rights advocates are worried not only that this moratorium could be reversed, but that the law would embolden Islamist factions in neighboring countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. Both have seen recent cases in which same-sex couples were whipped as punishment for homosexuality, and hard-line religious laws are spreading in the region.
Taiwan became the first place in Asia to allow same-sex couples to marry, with legislation enacted in May. Passed under pressure from the courts, the law does not provide full equality, as same-sex couples’ ability to adopt is limited. But it was hailed as a major victory after a yearslong campaign. “On May 17, in #Taiwan, #LoveWon,” President Tsai Ing-wen wrote on Twitter after the vote. “We took a big step toward true equality, and made Taiwan a better country.”
A sharp turnaround in China in recent years has reversed some of the past progress on L.G.B.T.Q. rights in the country. Until recently, the government allowed L.G.B.T.Q. advocacy so long as activities didn’t appear overtly political. The movement had won some important victories, including a court ruling against conversion therapy.
But recently, officials have begun denying gay-rights groups permission to register as nongovernmental organizations, citing “ethical concerns,” and the police have been harassing activists. There has also been growing censorship in the media. When the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” was released in China in March, the censors cut all references to his same-sex relationships and H.I.V. diagnosis.
Police violence targeting gay people continued this past winter in the Chechnya region, where more than 100 people have reportedly been abducted and tortured in the past two years. In January, the Russian LGBT Network said it had documented at least 19 new cases, and a Human Rights Watch investigation established that recent methods of torture included electrocution and rape with a stick. The Russian government has not fully investigated the abuses, despite promising to do so, while activists of the LGBT Network, which has helped more than 150 people escape the region, face constant threats.
Some European countries are undoing rights protections, according to ILGA-Europe, a L.G.B.T.Q. rights group. In Bulgaria, courts began refusing legal gender recognition of transgender people, while Poland put in place rules that deny in-vitro fertilization for lesbian couples and unmarried women. Though the past year has seen some important victories — the European Union’s top court ruled that even member states without marriage equality must recognize some rights of same-sex spouses married abroad — the growth of far-right parties throughout the Continent could threaten protections.
Ecuador this month became the latest country in the Americas to recognize same-sex couples’ right to marriage equality with rulings from the country’s constitutional court. The decision follows a sweeping opinion released in 2018 from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights — which enforces the rights agreements of the Organization of American States — that obligates all countries in its jurisdiction to establish marriage equality and provide legal recognition of the gender identity of transgender people.
Costa Rica’s court also ordered last year that marriage equality legislation be enacted within 18 months. Chile and Uruguay have recently updated gender-recognition laws. And the Caribbean Court of Justice struck down a law in Guyana that criminalized the wearing of gender-nonconforming clothing.
Some leaders have vowed to defy the L.G.B.T.Q. rights ruling, and transgender people face especially serious threats. But marriage equality is already a reality for most people living in the Americas.
Despite Pope Francis’ occasional attempts to set a more tolerant tone toward L.G.B.T.Q. people inside the Catholic Church, the Holy See remains a powerful force driving opposition to L.G.B.T.Q. rights. This month, a Vatican education committee issued a declaration denouncing what it described as “calls for public recognition of the right to choose one’s gender, and of a plurality of new types of unions.” This perspective has also led Vatican diplomats at the United Nations and other international bodies to fiercely oppose the use of the word “gender” in international agreements. Anti-L.G.B.T.Q. groups see the use of that word as a way to quietly broaden rights protections.
The United States
A global leader in promoting L.G.B.T.Q. rights under President Barack Obama, the United States has swung in the opposite direction under the Trump administration. The State Department has worked closely with anti-L.G.B.T.Q. organizations and has systematically opposed the use of words like “gender” in United Nations resolutions.
India’s Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling last September that struck down the country’s colonial-era law criminalizing gay sex, culminating a legal battle begun nearly 20 years ago. In combination with a 2014 Supreme Court ruling that established sweeping protections for transgender people, India is now a world leader in jurisprudence protecting the rights of gay men, lesbians and transgender people. Some high-profile transgender candidates ran for office in May elections, and a recent lower court ruling suggests there may be a route to winning same-sex marriage in India, the world’s second-most populous nation.