In Latin America, LGBT Acceptance Is Widening

Latin America is home to some of the most "out" countries in the world and an improving LGBT social climate, according to a recent Viacom study.

Latin America has made significant advances in pro-LGBT legislation in recent years. In 2010, Argentina was the first country in the region and tenth in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay and parts of Mexico have since followed in their footsteps. Same-sex unions are recognized in Ecuador and Chile, and same-sex adoption is legal in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay and parts of Mexico.

Of course, some countries in Latin America are farther ahead than others in terms of both legislation and social acceptance. On the whole, perceptions of LGBT people are improving, according to the ILGA-RIWI 2016 “Global Attitudes Survey on LGBTI People,” a study by Logo and Viacom that polled nearly 100,000 respondents in 65 countries, including 11 in Latin America*.  The following are key findings about Latin America from this project.

Many of the most “out” countries in the world are in Latin America. On average, 62% in Latin America said they personally knew an LGBT person. Among the top 15 countries in this measure were Venezuela (#2 at 72%), Brazil (#3 at 70%), Costa Rica (#6 at 67%), Mexico (#7 at 66%), Nicaragua and Argentina (#9 at 65%), and Colombia and Chile (#12 at 64%). By comparison, the only European nations in the top 15 were Spain (68%) and Ireland (66%). The US matched Nicaragua and Argentina at 65%.

Latin Americans are comfortable around LGBT people and affirm their human rights. More than 8 in 10 (82%) said they wouldn’t care if their neighbor were gay, compared with 65% globally. Fully 70% believe that human rights should apply to LGBT people. And only 13% think a company should be able to fire someone for being LGBT, compared with 24% of global respondents.

LGBT people are part of the Latin American social fabric. Of respondents who knew an LGBT person, 52% said there was at least one among their family or good friends. Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico and Costa Rica are the countries where respondents were most likely to have an LGBT person within those close circles.

Less than half in Latin America believe same-sex marriage should be legal. Despite the broad acceptance of LGBT in the region, there is some resistance when it comes to marriage equality. Across the 11 Latin American countries surveyed, only 47% favored legalizing same-sex marriage. In the countries surveyed where it’s currently legal (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico), agreement rose to 56% – still well below Europe (69%) and the US/Canada (64%).

A majority would feel nervous if their child were in a same-sex relationship.  Nearly two-thirds of respondents said that they would have some concerns if their child were in love with someone of the same sex (64%). Globally, 68% said this would upset them. The Latin American countries surveyed varied in their responses — the most concerned were in Ecuador (74%) and Peru (74%); the least concerned were in Mexico (54%) and Argentina (53%).

Knowing LGBT people personally changes minds. Latin American respondents who knew an LGBT person were 69% more likely to support same-sex marriage and 33% less likely to say they’d be very upset if their child were in love with someone of the same sex.

Overall perceptions are improving mostly due to knowing LGBT people, entertainment, and legislation. Nearly 4 in 10 Latin American respondents said their feelings toward LGBT people have become more favorable over the last 5 years. Among this group, almost a third reported that knowing an LGBT person was the main reason for this change.  For 15%, seeing LGBT people in entertainment was the biggest influence upon their more positive outlook. And for an additional 15%, pro-LGBT laws led respondents to improve their attitudes toward the LGBT community.

* 11 Countries: Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela