Examining Trajectories for LGBT Rights

According to a common belief of many advocates and analysis of LGBT rights, the liberalization of rights related to LGBT people occurs through a sequence of legal changes, beginning with decriminalization, followed by laws relating to economics and the public sphere (workplace, public accommodations, military service), then laws related to family (adoption, domestic partnership) with marriage signifying the pinnacle. Based on a statistical analysis of laws in 130 countries over the past thirty years, this paper shows that only half of all countries follow this path. The remaining countries follow a path which liberalizes family laws first, followed by other legal changes. This finding can inform advocacy strategies and expectations of how governments meet their human rights obligations.