While laws and anti-discrimination legislation are key indicators of how gay-friendly a country is, the overall atmosphere also plays a role. Countries with less religiosity tend to be more accepting of homosexuality, while women are consistently more tolerant than men.
The Netherlands has a reputation for being one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world, thanks to its liberal culture and progressive LGBTQ rights legislation. Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Rotterdam have many LGBTQ bars, clubs, and restaurants to choose from.
Despite its small size, Malta is one of the world’s top gay-friendly countries. The island nation is traditionally Roman Catholic, but in 2014, progressive leadership ushered in pro-LGBTQ legislation including criminalizing conversion therapy and several trans-rights bills. The country also allows same-sex marriage and adoption. A Eurobarometer poll found that in 2019 67% of the population agreed with same-sex marriage, up from 18% in 2006.
Finland is another LGBTQ-friendly country. It has strong anti-discrimination laws and a large community of LGBT people that enjoys the freedom to live, work and invest in the country. In fact, it was the first country to make same-sex marriage legal. The government also criminalizes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, workplaces, and public services.
Reykjavik is home to numerous bars, bookstores, and events that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. The city has a reputation for being incredibly safe and accepting, with 91.8% of residents saying they would be comfortable living next to a neighbor who is openly gay or lesbian, according to a 2021 Gallup poll.
Norway is another LGBTQ-friendly country that offers a wide range of social and cultural opportunities. The capital Oslo is famous for its vibrant gay scene and hosts several pride parades each year. In addition to Oslo, cities like Hemsedal, Trondheim, and Bergen all have large communities of LGBT residents.
Portugal is one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world. It has strong anti-discrimination laws, legal same-sex marriage, and adoption rights. It also ranked at the top of Europe’s Rainbow Index four years in a row. While it is a traditionally Roman Catholic country, its progressive leadership ushered in pro-LGBT policies including a ban on sterilization and invasive surgery for intersex people.
Across the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed and in Lebanon, solid majorities of all ages say homosexuality should be accepted by society. In contrast, in Israel and the Palestinian territories, fewer than seven in ten say they agree with gay rights. In the other countries surveyed, people ages 30 and older are more likely than those under 30 to say homosexuality should be accepted.
In the Netherlands, a country that was among the first to legalize same-sex marriage in 2000, nearly eight-in-ten (82%) say they support it. It’s also a top study-abroad destination for students; it has many LGBT-friendly cities with a lively nightlife scene, including Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Utrecht.
The most LGBTQ-friendly countries are those that do more than host Pride parades. They actively promote acceptance of sexual identities and lifestyles and offer a wide variety of LGBTQ-related attractions and events throughout the year. These include community gatherings, festivals, and public speeches. In addition, these countries have a strong sense of social justice and a commitment to equality.
Belgium is considered one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world due to its progressive laws and policies. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal and same-sex couples can adopt or use artificial insemination to conceive children. The country has many academic institutions that offer safe spaces for LGBT students.
Sweden is another European country that is considered a gay-friendly destination, especially in terms of the university experience. Its universities such as Linnaeus University, Linkoping University and Lund University work towards providing a safe environment for students of all backgrounds to study together. The country also allows same-sex marriage and supports equal rights for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Malta may not be a typical destination that comes to mind when thinking of a gay-friendly destination, but the tiny island actually has an active LGBT scene. It scored 89% on ILGA Europe’s Rainbow Index, making it the top-ranked nation for LGBTQIA+ rights. It prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and has bans on conversion therapy.
Canada is a popular LGBTQIA+ travel destination and its reputation as one of the most gay-friendly nations in the world is well-deserved. The country has been a leader in the fight for LGBTQIA+ equality and passed legislation that makes it a crime to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. It also protects its citizens from discrimination in employment, housing, and public services and prohibits the use of sterilization and invasive surgery on intersex individuals.
The first country in the world to recognize same-sex partnerships in 1989, Denmark has long been a gay-friendly nation. It bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and supports same-sex marriage and adoption. It even allows gay men and women to serve openly in the military. It also has one of the most extensive sex education curricula and has hate crime laws in place.
Malta is a Catholic nation, but President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca has made the country more progressive regarding LGBTQ rights since she was elected in 2014. She’s ushered in powerful anti-discrimination legislation and banned conversion therapy. Malta ranks number one on ILGA-Europe’s list of countries that promote LGBT rights.
Spain is a favorite destination for LGBTQ travelers. It has a liberal culture and the country regularly ranks on lists of the best places to live for LGBTQ people. It’s famous for its LGBT festivals and has several queer neighborhoods in Madrid. It’s also a great study-abroad location. The country has many renowned universities and offers scholarships for LGBTQ students. It also has the highest percentage of LGBTQ residents of any country in the world. Moreover, Spanish youth are overwhelmingly supportive of LGBTQ equality. In fact, 83 percent of young people in the country support same-sex marriage and adoption. They also believe that LGBT parents are just as good as those of non-LGBT couples.