Same-sex marriage is now legal in Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, and in Mexico City and several Mexican states. These are excerpts from a longer Q&A with Corrales. 

How is this shift a surprise?

We expect gay rights to emerge in richer areas, but we’ve also seen progress in not-so-rich countries like Ecuador, which has civil unions, and no progress in some rich places, like Venezuela. We also expect gay rights to emerge where secularism is strong; evangelicals are the main opponents. That helps us understand Uruguay. However, we’ve also seen expansion in some very religious places, like Colombia.

How do the new laws differ from those in the U.S.?

Same-sex marriage became law in the U.S. when public opinion was turning more tolerant. In many cases in Latin America, the legal changes came first. Latin America proves that you don’t need to wait until society changes.

What hasn’t changed?

Progress is very uneven. Also, with many barriers into the labor market for LGBT people, they are disproportionately exposed to the region’s street life. Add in homophobia and trans-phobia, and violence manifests. Ten days before Orlando there was a similar episode in Mexico.

Javier Corrales, Dwight W. Morrow 1895 Professor of Political Science