The conventional wisdom about the causes
of social rights expansion, and for LGBT rights
in particular, goes something like this: rights
are more likely to advance in high-income
democracies (the modernization hypothesis),
where social movements are abundant, strong,
organized, and sufficiently networked (the social
movement hypothesis), and where religion is
less influential in the daily life of majorities (the
secularist or culturalist hypothesis). This paper

argues that these propositions, for the most part,
hold true, but they must become more nuanced
to account for the experience of Latin America
in the past ten years. In particular, institutional
factors, such as the role of alliances between
movements and political groups, degree of party
competition, degree of federalism, and degree of
court assertiveness and progressiveness, should
supplement structural variables, such as income.
In addition, the notion of secularism needs to
incorporate a discussion of the different ways
in which two branches of religion—mainstream
Catholicism and Evangelicalism—influence politics.

Javier Corrales


USAID, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


United States