How do we explain the divergence in the embrace of LGBTQ rights among right-wing European parties? In the 1990s and early 2000s, a few conservative parties started to embrace the gay rights cause, joining earlier adopters among left-wing and liberal Western European parties. Conservative parties in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, and Britain trumpeted their newly found enthusiasm for gay rights as a badge of modernity and political maturity. The embrace was driven by changing social values, the idiosyncratic agency of leadership, and declining religiosity. Today the right-wing lesbian, gay or bisexual parliamentarian is far from an exception. Since 1976, nearly 150 self-identifying LGB parliamentarians from right of center parties have taken office.
The position of the radical right is more complex. When it comes to gay and lesbian rights, radical right parties can be divided into two groups. Parties from the Netherlands, Belgium, and northern European countries have invoked the nationalism of gay rights as a club to beat back the Muslim immigrant. Homonationalism has become a successful electoral strategy, which blends support for gay rights with xenophobia and Islamophobia. In contrast, radical right parties in Eastern and Southern Europe have not embraced gay rights. In most of these countries, “homosexuality” is seen as a foreign threat, imposed by Western liberals or alien to Catholic culture and tradition. While the arc of the gay rights movement bends towards freedom, in most countries the T has been jettisoned from the LGB. When the left is slow to adopt, the right sees little gain in moving on the issue, nor is disposed to lead from the front.
Gabriele Magni is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Director of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. His research examines the factors that shape political inclusion, solidarity and representation in advanced democracies. One stream of his work explores the link between economic inequality, immigration and welfare attitudes. A second stream examines LGBTQ rights and representation, focusing on LGBTQ candidates and politicians. His research has appeared in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, and the British Journal of Political Science, among other outlets. He has also written for The Washington Post, Politico and The New Republic, and provided commentary to The New York Times, The Washington Post, FiveThirtyEight, NBC News and Reuters. Previously, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton University’s Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance.
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Co-sponsored by the Clayman Institute for Gender Research.