|Much like the early twentieth century, the world is set to be dominated by several great powers, instead of one or two superpowers. What will this mean for global LGBT communities?
At present, current or prospective global powers are China, India, the European Union and the United States, although the latter is currently in economic decline and may be experiencing the same loss of overall dominance as the United Kingdom after the First World War last century. China has experienced phenomenal economic growth as its economy and society modernises, and is already Australia's largest trading partner. It may also become that for New Zealand in time, although it is currently our third largest trading partner, having recently overtaken the United States. India may be hamstrung by its extremes of wealth and economic inequality and its regional rivalries with Pakistan, although it may follow China's path in years to come.
In the case of the European Union, the leading question is one of integration, with its twenty five current constituent nations. While the older EU members have excellent human rights and civil liberties standards, including LGBT rights, some newer members contain restive reactionary proponents of organised racist and homophobic violence- witness the unrest in Hungary, Slovakia and Serbia during recent Pride marches from that quarter. As well as that, Italy and Greece are dragging the chain insofar as relationship and parenting equality are concerned, while Germany doesn't have LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination laws. Apart from that, it is probably the best prospect insofar as inclusive LGBT citizenship goes.
China has adopted a more cautious stance, neither 'promotion nor persecution.' Given its rapacious economic growth and need for highly skilled professional labour, though, there may be some chance of constructive engagement. China may not yet have antidiscrimination laws, so it may be up to us to demonstrate the benefits of such human resource management neccessities to them, encouraging change through amenable business contacts. Chinese Diaspora LGBT businesses could be particularly useful in this context.
India has recently decriminalised male homosexuality after the Delhi High Court struck down Section 377 of the colonial era Indian Penal Code. However, this emergent great power is hamstrung by its absence of public sector provision of health, education and social services and archaic caste system. Added to this, although it has decriminalised male homosexuality, censorship and anti-sexworker laws still work against containment of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. On the positive side, though, there is no organised indigenous antigay movement.
I've deliberately left the United States until last. Despite the rhetoric about the "world's sole superpower", the United States is now paying the price of its long-term neglect of comprehensive welfare state, public health and educational services. Although the United States was one of the birthplaces of modern global LGBT activism and still provides some useful strategic relationships from that quarter, it has been eclipsed by the European Union, Canada and New Zealand over the last thirty years.
However, it is also the chief source of antigay propaganda, tactics and strategy to its satellite movements in New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Canada, Africa, Southeast Asia and elsewhere. While it has failed to contain LGBT human rights and civil liberties in New Zealand, Britain, Canada and South Africa, Australia has a federal same-sex marriage ban in place, and the vile Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill is widely acknowledged to be the progeny of the extremist US Christian Right organisation "The Family." In that context, Uganda's endemic civil wars, authoritarian Museveni regime, poverty and absence of social services have all led to professional flight, with predatory US fundamentalists swooping down to divert public attention from the real woes- namely, the insurgency of the equally dire Lord's Resistance Army in Northern Uganda.
I may be unduly pessimistic, but the United States may not do all that well this century. New England and the Pacific Northwest states are havens of pluralist civil society and diversity, but they may not be able to stay in the same federation with the backward Southern United States and their religious authoritarian elements in the long term. It is possible that climate change, economic decline and growing divergence will lead to a second civil war later this century.
As for LGBT rights, it's a mosaic. Lawrence vs Texas put paid to antigay criminalisation through archaic sodomy laws in 2003, but there is now little prospect that the Obama administration will be able to implement an end to employment, accommodation, goods and services discrimination through the enactment of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Same-sex marriage proper (and in some cases, even civil unions) are now banned in forty five states, and legal in only five, but there has been greater progress with adoption reform, oddly enough. Chillingly, though, the US Christian Right has practised terrorism against abortion providers in the nineties and last decade, and may encourage similar initiatives against LGBT communities if incipient totalitarians like the Christian Reconstructionist/theonomist movement gain greater influence as the US economy continues to decline.
This, then, is our probable future world. New Zealand can be proud of our existing progress in LGBT rights, but we need to complete our legislative reform agenda, further contain the HIV/AIDS epidemic and then move on to solidarity with embattled LGBT communities across the world. Craig Young - 17th November 2010