This year's map (pictured right) from the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) gives countries a dark green for being progressive on gay rights, lighter green for being somewhat progressive and grey for being poor on gay rights. Countries in the 'red zone' are accused of "gross violations of human rights and discrimination". The factors used to determine the rankings included whether the country has anti-discrimination legislation, gay marriage, parenting rights, hate crime laws and whether the country has allowed pride demonstrations to take place.
In general the map follows a predictable East-West divide, but there are notable exceptions. The top country was the UK, followed by Sweden and Spain. Surprisingly the BENELUX countries, which have been the vanguard in the area of gay rights, came in this year with only average scores for Western Europe. This is probably due to the fact that countries like Spain and Portugal have made such rapid advances over the past few years while few changes have been made in Belgium and Holland. Switzerland, France and Ireland were among the lowest scorers in Western Europe. Hungary had the highest score in Eastern Europe - despite the fact that they just passed a new constitution which bans gay marriage. They do however still have civil unions.
But Italy had the lowest score in Western Europe, with a big fat zero. Countries with more gay rights than Italy included Poland, Serbia and Albania. While Italy did get points for having anti-discrimination protection in employment, it lost points for having no form of legal recognition for same-sex couples, no hate crime protection and banning adoption by gays and lesbians.
The legal situation appears to mirror a larger cultural hostility toward gays and lesbians that still lingers in Italy. After all, this is a country where the prime minister has defended himself in a scandal in which is is accused of paying an underage prostitute by declaring, "At least I'm not gay." Following Ireland's adoption of civil unions last year, Italy has been left as the only country in Western Europe to have no form of gay marriage.
Same-sex Marriage Same-sex Civil Unions Issue under political consideration Unrecognized Constitutional ban on gay marriageBut Italy was not the worst performer in the EU. Cyprus was deep in the 'red zone' with a score of -2. Latvia scored equally with Italy with a score of 0. Interestingly Lithuania, which has been in the press recently as its parliament considers a law that would impose fines for "public promotion of homosexual relations.," scored higher than Italy with a 1.
Also of note - Azerbaijan, which won the Eurovision Song Contest this weekend, was deep in the 'red zone' with a score of -2. This was partly because it has never had a pride demonstration. ILGA accuses the country of "gross violations of human rights and discrimination." Given Eurovision's large gay following, next year's song contest may see difficulties of the sort seen at the 2009 ESC in Moscow when Russia banned a gay rights march from taking place in the city.