San Diego International Law Journal

Library of Congress Authority File


Document Type



A trend of rights advocacy has recently developed in the international community. Organizations dedicated to the principle of advancing the rights of historically under-represented and oppressed social groups have proliferated around the globe. The growth of the gay rights movement in recent years has resulted in the expansion of civil liberties afforded to same-sex couples. The movement has gained significant success in symbolic expression. Even without much knowledge of the movement, one typically associates a rainbow flag, the Greek letter lambda, and the word “pride” with the effort. Unfortunately, the movement has not achieved comparable substantive success. Same-sex couples continue to be denied basic rights afforded to similarly-situated, opposite-sex couples. Furthermore, a strong opposition movement has formed in response to the gay rights movement, dedicated to the continued social imbalance between heterosexual couples and their gay and lesbian counterparts.

The limited substantive success achieved by gay rights groups has been documented. The explanation for this limited success is usually traced to religion and traditional values. In many nations, however, the problem has stemmed from the absence of participation by gay rights groups in the legal arena. In some of these nations, these groups are unable to gain access to the court system to litigate the matter. In others, particularly in South America, it may be a more complex issue of lobbying the legislature (and the public) to overturn a nearly insurmountable constitutional amendment. Regardless of the obstacles impeding the successes of gay rights groups, it is clear that the nations that have experienced the most success have seen a pronounced involvement of these groups in their legal systems.