President Obama joined a chorus of critics calling for the repeal of controversial legislation seen as anti-LGBT on Friday, saying that laws that have been passed in Mississippi and North Carolina “are wrong.”
The remarks came partly in response to a travel advisory issued by the U.K. Foreign Minister’s office that warned “LGBT travelers may be affected by legislation” recently enacted in the two states. In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed a measure earlier this month that prevents government agencies from taking action against state employees, individuals, organizations and private associations that deny services based on religious objections -- usually interpreted to mean religious objections to same-sex marriage. In the Tar Heel State, meanwhile, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill last month that nullified all local nondiscrimination protections for LGBT North Carolinians and banned transgender people from using government building restrooms in line with their gender identities.
Obama told reporters during a joint press conference with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron in London that British people need not be afraid to travel to the two states in question.
“The people of North Carolina and Mississippi are wonderful people,” he said. “They are hospitable people. They are beautiful states. And you are welcome.”
However, Obama said, “the laws that have been passed there are wrong and should be overturned.”
Obama said the laws were the result of “politics” as well as the “strong emotions” of people with whom he disagrees on matters of equal rights.
“Although I respect their different viewpoints,” he said, “I think it’s very important for us not to send signals that anybody is treated differently.”
The remarks were arguably the president’s most forceful condemnation to date of the two specific measures. Yet they were also not the least bit surprising. In recent years, numerous federal agencies have issued guidance stipulating that existing protections against sex discrimination ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as well. Last year, the White House created its first “all-gender bathroom” for staff and guests to use consistent with their gender identity.
In keeping with its interpretation of federal law, the Obama administration revealed earlier this month that it is currently considering whether North Carolina’s legislation makes the state ineligible for billions of dollars in federal funding.