Metro Weekly

Obama: North Carolina and Mississippi laws “should be overturned”

President's comments go on record against anti-LGBT laws, as he attempts to allay British travelers' concerns

Barack Obama - Credit: U.S. State Department

Barack Obama – Credit: U.S. State Department

President Obama has condemned anti-LGBT laws recently passed in two Southern states in an attempt to reassure British tourists, reports USA Today.

“I want everybody here in the United Kingdom to know that the people of North Carolina and Mississippi are wonderful people,” Obama said during a Friday news conference. “They are beautiful states and you are welcome and you should come and enjoy yourselves. And I think you’ll be treated with extraordinary hospitality.”

But at the same time, the president also went on record as opposing recently passed “religious freedom” laws, which could have a negative effect on LGBT people. Obama called the new laws “wrong” and said they “should be overturned.”

Obama’s comments came in response to the British Foreign Office issuing an advisory warning travelers to North Carolina and Mississippi of those new laws. That guidance, issued earlier this week, noted that the United States is an “extremely diverse society,” and, as such, attitudes toward LGBT people vary from place to place. It also suggested that LGBT travelers refer to the Human Rights Campaign and other sources to see if those laws might adversely impact them.

In North Carolina, lawmakers removed protections against discrimination in public accommodations by repealing local pro-LGBT ordinances and required that transgender people be forced to use only the restroom that corresponds to their biological sex. In Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed into effect a law that grants individuals and business owners significant leeway to discriminate against LGBT people or others, such as single mothers, of whose lifestyle they disapprove based on “sincerely held” personal beliefs.

Obama also said that the move to pass the laws was motivated not solely by animus, but by political considerations and some lawmakers’ sincerely held convictions.

“Although I respect their different viewpoints, it’s important for us not to send signals that anyone is treated differently,” Obama added.

Cameron defended the Foreign Office’s advice to travelers, noting that the office tries to give advice “dispassionately” and “impartially” about laws that could affect British citizens abroad. 

“Our view on any of these kinds of things is that we should use law to end discrimination, rather than embed it or enhance it,” Cameron said. “And that’s something we’re comfortable saying to countries and friends anywhere in the world.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com