LGBT Rights in the U.S. and Lebanon: How Much Progress Has Really Been Made?


The United States and Lebanon both boast of ideas of diversity and progressiveness, however, neither seems to be particularly adamant on practicing these ideas. LGBT communities in both countries still fear discrimination and oftentimes violence. The difference between the two countries however can be seen in the legal system. Currently in the U.S. eight states have legalized gay marriage but prejudice is still widespread. On the other hand, the Lebanese government had a law (article 534) that deemed same sex relations as “going against nature” and being caught committing physical acts with someone of the same sex could result in up to a year in prison. Fortunately, this law was publicly denounced in 2009 but LGBT individuals still face the threat of violence and arrest from the police and individuals.

There are numerous pro-LGBT groups fighting for equality in both countries but those in Lebanon face a particular set of challenges. Without widespread support from communities it is often difficult to organize and assist those that categorize themselves as LGBT, this is especially true outside of the bigger cities. One group, Helem (literally meaning “Dream”), works towards protecting the LGBT community and advocates for social and legal equality. Another group, Meem, is specifically focused on providing support and counseling to Lebanese LGBT women. Branches of these organizations have also begun to spring up in the U.S. and several European nations with a large Lebanese population.

Recently, in Lebanon, there has been an enormous outcry made by the LGBT community to end anal exams by doctors on supposed gay men. The men receiving these exams were not willing participants but were brought in by police authorities. This is just one example of the violence that continues to frighten the LGBT community. This issue has brought about a great deal of support though from groups outside of the LGBT community which is a hopeful sign that progress will be made and social stigmas are beginning to fade.

In the U.S. homosexuality has become more or less socially acceptable to the point that same sex couples feel they can hold hands or express affection in public. LGBT couples in Lebanon however do not feel the same level of security. Although the U.S. often boasts its superiority in relation to human rights it often times does not see the people that are slipping through the cracks. Yes, eight states have legalized gay marriage and that is amazing progress but there is still so much that can and needs to be done. The same goes for Lebanon, one cannot boast of its progressive views without practicing them. In both countries I think anti-LGBT sentiments have multiple origins but religion is often cited as a main reason against it. Religion has, in the past and still to this day, shaped culture and this is an offset of that. Meaning, what started as a religious belief has now turned into a social concept of what is “right” and what is “wrong.” As the U.S. and Lebanon slowly become more and more secular, ideas of homophobia will also begin to fade, it will just take time.

Helem homepage

Meem homepage

Outraged Lebanese demand end to anal exams on gay men-CNN

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7 thoughts on “LGBT Rights in the U.S. and Lebanon: How Much Progress Has Really Been Made?

    1. I found your response to be very interesting in regards to the advancement of LGBT rights in both countries. I specifically want to focus on the religion based point you made about religious culture transforming into social rights. I agree with your statement on how rights are becoming more prevalent in both countries although violence and discrimination still occur. However, Mitt Romney, a born and raised Mormon and Presidential candidate, has values that blatantly state his anti-LGBT stance. If he were to get elected, do you think LGBT rights in America would progress, retract or remain the same?

  1. Even though LGBT community is not very welcomed “law-wise” in Lebanon, but if we were to speak socially, or reality on-ground wise, this community is spreading widely in Lebanon and is being very much accepted by the Lebanese society. It is true that at certain times some years ago, couples of the same sex were treated differently, but now such relationships are more positively looked at. Any couple, whether of the same sex or not, if caught while having “too much physical contact”, will have to face legal consequences. Thus, it is not about being discriminatory against same-sex relationships, but it is a law that is applied to all regarding intimate contact in public places.

  2. As an employment discrimination attorney, I wholeheartedly support legislation and policy which recognize equal rights, including same-sex marriage, and which ban discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation. Many American states and cities already have these anti-discrimination laws, but the U.S. has yet to recognize sexual orientation as a protected class. Hopefully our federal government and the rest of the world will recognize these rights.

  3. Lebanese people have always fought for their rights but as long as people and religious extremesits still consider being “gay” is a crime, violence against members of the LGBT community will continue. I heard many parents saying that if their sun turns gay, they would never support him, some would even kill their children for that. This level of hatred, intolerance, and violence against the LGBT community is rising. People don’t have to hate or like this, but at least accept the differences and take a stand against discrimination of any kind.

  4. Yes, this subject is extremely sensitive, especially in Lebanon, but it is somehow silent and not much talked about, well at least to my knowledge. The problem is that children in Lebanon are raised on religious basis, which plants a negative idea of homosexuality in a child. Some of the people I know actually beat up male homosexuals on sight. There is a lot of hatred towards homosexuals in Lebanon, because people are not well educated about this issue, they consider it something close to AIDS, where a person carrying AIDS shouldn’t be spoken or interacted with, but an HIV positive individual has feelings and should be respected no matter how/what/where/when like any other individual. That’s why most of the people conceal their homosexuality. Yes, Lebanon has a lot of gay bars and night clubs, but it is somehow frightening to live among 60-70% of people who are close minded about this matter.

  5. Justin, in response to your question, I think that (thankfully) LGBT rights have been discussed enough in U.S. culture/society that in spite of Romney’s discriminatory views on homosexuality allies of this community will not go away. Unfortunately, I do think that if Romney gets the chance and the support he will enact laws that confine LGBT individuals even more so in this country.

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