Included in a newly formed list of the safest places for LGBTQ people to visit are a number of predominantly Catholic countries, showing Catholics are more supportive of LGBTQ equality than they are resistant to it.
Popular online travel journalists and researchers Asher and Lyric Fergusson recently ranked 150 countries from most dangerous to safest for LGBTQ tourists to visit. The ranking was determined by an eight-point LGBTQ Danger Index that included research on the legal standing of LGBTQ folks in the countries polled. Within that research, Asher and Lyric considered legal protections for LGBTQ individuals, workers, and parents, as well as public sentiment toward the queer community.
In their findings, Sweden, Canada, and Norway are the top three safest countries for LGBTQ tourists, while Nigeria, Qatar, and Yemen remain the most dangerous.
Among the remaining top ten safest countries are a number of traditionally Catholic countries, including Spain, France, Malta, and Belgium. Each one has exceptionally high rankings for the categories of recognition of same-sex marriages, constitutional or broad protections for LGBTQ individuals, and criminalization of hate crimes committed against LGBTQ folks. While there have been many surveys which show that U.S. Catholics overwhelmingly support LGBTQ equality, this latest international report also shows that such support is present in other nations with large Catholic populations. Catholic tradition is not only part of the personal identity of the population, but is also part of the social fabric of the countries.
A particularly interesting study is the case of Malta, where 95% of the population identifies as Catholic and whose constitution recognizes the Catholic Church as the official religion of the nation, giving the Catholic Church the right and duty to “teach which principles are right and wrong.” This same country ranked first for LGBTQ rights among the 49 European countries in 2018.
Malta has passed a number of LGBTQ affirming laws in recent years. The nation has recognized same-sex civil unions since 2014 and same-sex marriages since 2017, banned conversion therapy in 2015, added the gender-neutral “X” category to IDs and passports, and recently opened a gender clinic with the expectation of making gender confirmation surgery free for all trans citizens.
As Bondings 2.0 previously reported, Malta represents a microcosm of the evolution toward LGBTQ equality that should be mirrored in other Catholic countries. Rather than being an impediment to LGBTQ recognition, Malta’s Catholic identity, with its focus on the respect for human dignity, equality, and the common good, has contributed to the full inclusion of LGBTQ Maltese citizens. With 95% of the population identifying as Catholic, it would be hard to argue that Maltese Catholics did not contribute to the nation being identified as one of the safest for LGBTQ folks.
In addition, Maltese Catholic bishops sought greater inclusion for LGBTQ community, with one bishop winning an award from the Malta Gay Rights Movement in 2014.
Similarly, in Spain and France, the LGBTQ community has made advances in recent years. The Church in both of those countries have made strides in providing pastoral care to the LGBTQ community as their rights expand. For instance, in Spain, a Catholic diocese has provided guidelines for baptizing children of same-sex couples, and French Catholic bishops have made real efforts to include LGBTQ folks in Catholic communities after the legalization of same-gender marriage in France.
The progress of Catholic countries such as Spain, France, and Malta, all with their own limitations and nuances prove that Catholics, Catholic countries, and Catholic bishops themselves can effectively flourish while also caring for and supporting the LGBTQ community. In the U.S., the debate is often presented as an either/or: We can either uphold our Catholic identity and tradition or we can work for LGBTQ equality. Malta, Spain, and France show that the Church can and should do both. In fact, the flourishing of the whole church requires the flourishing of all people, including the LGBTQ community. The Church and the LGBTQ community flourish together. In order for the Church to be true to its universal mission of love and inclusion, we must work in solidarity with and for the LGBTQ community for their full equality.
–Kevin Molloy, New Ways Ministry, December 11, 2019