The Council of Europe has issued an extraordinarily thorough report (available on the web here) on the legal and social status of lgbt people across Europe. This will be a foundational document for anyone interested in trans-national studies of sexuality and gender.
The report has two parts: one on legal status and one on social status. The former is a comprehensive compilation covering employment, family law, violence, change of gender and asylum, among other topics. It will be a great reference, but in the end it is essentially a compilation, although with an excellent set of recommendations that can serve as benchmarks. What I found more interesting and impressive was the way that the second aspect of the report weaves in the results of survey and other sociological research to paint a picture of the experience of sexual and gender minorities.
It is easy for Americans to forget how diverse the social climates are across Europe. Support for same-sex marriage, for example, varies from 82% in the Netherlands to 11% in Romania. In about half of the 27 countries in the Council, support is 40% or more (in 8 countries, it's above 50%). Quickie comparison: here in the U.S., according to 2009 data, support is above 40% in 23 states, including 6 where support is above 50%.
Nor is everything golden even in European countries with the most progressive laws: A Swedish survey found that 50% of lgb respondents were closeted at work; among the general population, 68% of EU citizens think that it is difficult to be openly lgb at work. A Netherlands study found that 40% of respondents objected to seeing two men kiss in public (compared to 13% for different sex couples kissing). [Caveat: I don't know if these surveys were based on representative samples.]
The report also notes the danger of some European politicians trying to use acceptance of gay people as an argument to demonize immigrants from presumably anti-gay cultures, quoting Judith Butler (yes, Judith Butler).
I wonder what a similarly comprehensive report on the United States would find.