The British Foreign Office has updated its foreign travel advice to alert gay Britons that they “may be affected” by travel to North Carolina or Mississippi.
The update comes after North Carolina passed a bill requiring transgender individuals to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate. The Mississippi law allows people to deny services in some instances to gay couples, transgenders or those having sex outside of marriage.
“The U.S. is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards LGBT people differ hugely across the country. LGBT travelers may be affected by legislation passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi,” the UK warns its citizens. “Before travelling please read our general travel advice for the LGBT community. You can find more detail on LGBT issues in the U.S. on the website of the Human Rights Campaign.”
The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy organization, called the UK alert “alarming.”
“It is both frightening and embarrassing that one of our nation’s staunchest allies has warned its citizens of the risks of traveling to North Carolina and Mississippi because of anti-LGBT laws passed by their elected officials,” said Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global, in a statement. “It is now more clear than ever that these terrible measures are not only harming individuals and taking an economic toll on the states, but are also causing serious damage to our nation’s reputation, and the perceived safety of LGBT people who travel here.”
President Obama stops in London this week for lunch with Queen Elizabeth II on Friday.
Randy Berry, the State Department’s Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, was asked at a special briefing today how the bathroom bills affect his job of promoting gay rights overseas.
“In fact, I think that we can turn that domestic debate that we have into an ability to engage in a very transparent and honest way about how difficult change often can seem. When I’m traveling, I get questions a lot about the ongoing debate as it shapes up domestically here in the United States. I think that charges of being hypocritical would only, I think, pose a problem for us if – is if, in some way, we tended to downplay those issues or we wanted to ignore that they exist,” Berry said.
“I think because we have had our own rather complicated and difficult journey, which is continuing, on LGBTI acceptance here at home, I think that makes us a perfect partner for discussion overseas,” the envoy continued. “Because when we say that we know what sort of path gradual change can take, we say that because we’ve walked that path. And I think that actually makes us a very valued interlocutor on some of the key components of what it means to really see progress for LGBTI citizens.”
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press that the bathroom law is about reining in “government overreach.”
“It’s not government’s business to tell the private sector what their bathroom, locker room or shower practices should be. Not only the private business but also the YMCA and other nonprofit organizations,” McCrory said.
The governor said he’s “learned through this” that “we have got to have more dialogue and not threats.”
“You know, I was in Hamlet, North Carolina, a small town that could be any town in the United States of America, I walked into a buffet restaurant, African-American buffet restaurant, and the people just welcomed me with open arms and said thanks for protecting us,” McCrory said.
“I got back in my car and I got a call from someone in corporate America going, man, you got to change this, we’re getting killed. And it showed me the disconnect we had between the corporate suites and Main Street on a very complex subject.”