Marking another milestone for equality, the US State Department has put on its travel site a section aimed at providing information for LGBT tourists looking to vacation abroad.
The government-produced site now provides information for LGBT travelers in general, and reports on LGBT-specific issues on many countries. The guide claims that “most LGBT travelers encounter no problems while overseas,” and mentions that “a number” of countries offer legal protection, but says that “unfortunately, there are others that do not.”
The site includes sections on every country in the world, giving information regarding things such as visas, crime statistics, and “special circumstances,” but not all include LGBT-specific information. Those that do vary in length and usefulness; for example, the page on Ukraine has multiple paragraphs dedicated to anti-LGBT sentiment and crime, and a “Special Issues for LGBT Travelers” section mentions that legislation has been proposed to criminalize the “promotion” of homosexuality, but provides no information regarding the laws about same-sex intercourse.
The page on Uganda has no such section regarding LGBT issues, mentioning its proposed bill that would “further criminalize homosexuality,” but says nothing further in regards to current law; a serious oversight, considering that homosexual relationships can be punished by ten years or more in prison.
In contrast, the page on New Zealand doesn’t mention LGBT concerns at all, even though any LGBT people and allies traveling there would likely be interested to know that same-sex civil unions are legal, and nearly identical to marriage.
“We think it’s great that the State Department is offering this service for LGBT travelers,” a spokesman at the gay travel site Purple Roofs, J. Scott Coatsworth, told 429Magazine.
As for the apparent contradiction of a government agency offering travel information specifically for LGBT people, despite the country’s lack of legal benefits at the federal level, Coatsworth said, “It’s just another example of the split nature of our own government at the moment, with some factions trying to bring about true equality within the US and others… doing everything in their power to keep their fingers in the, ahem, dyke of progress.”
Though other sources have reported that the information for LGBT tourists is on a site of its own, it’s actually part of the US State Department’s Travel site. Only one page is completely dedicated to LGBT-specific concerns, and with the information provided on each country being inconsistent, the site’s usefulness is somewhat limited.
However, the LGBT Travel Information page does include a number of helpful site links, both government-run and not. Especially useful is the link to the International Gay and Lesbian Association, which does contain detailed information on each country’s LGBT policies.