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Why did Latin America’s most famously sexually liberated country, Brazil, fall behind one of its most socially conservative societies, Argentina, in expanding LGBT equality? This essay examines this puzzling question through the lens of the divergent landscapes of gay rights that have erupted in Argentina and Brazil since both countries became liberal democracies in the mid-1980s. Looking beyond differences in support for LGBT legislation by the executive branch, the religious context, the composition of the party system, and levels of social and economic development, this study focuses on the gay rights campaign. While in Brazil the campaign for gay rights followed the model of a conventional political struggle for civil rights, in Argentina it was framed as a human rights crusade, a strategy that, among other things, resonated profoundly with the country’s search for justice, equality and the deepening of democracy.