President Obama said Friday that laws affecting LGBT rights in North Carolina and Mississippi are “wrong” and should be reversed in court.
The president, speaking at a news conference in London, also urged British people not to be afraid of visiting the two southern states, saying they would find “hospitable people” there. The British foreign office has issued a travel advisory warning its citizens about potential problems for gay or transgender people visiting those states.
“The laws that have been passed there are wrong and should be overturned,” Mr. Obama said. “They’re in response to politics in part, in part strong emotions that are generated by people … although I respect their different viewpoints, I think it’s very important for us not to send signals that anybody’s treated differently.”
The North Carolina “bathroom” law bans individuals from using public bathrooms that don’t match their biological sex at birth. It also prevents cities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances to protect gay and transgender people.
Mississippi’s “religious liberties” law, which takes effect in July, will allow businesses and religious groups to deny LGBT residents services such as counseling and wedding planning.
Mr. Obama urged Britons not to allow the state laws to intimidate them from traveling there.
“I want everybody here in the United Kingdom to know that the people of North Carolina and Mississippi are wonderful people, they are hospitable people, they are beautiful states, and you are welcomed,” the president said. “You should come and enjoy yourselves. I think you’ll be treated with extraordinary hospitality.”
Mr. Cameron defended his government’s travel advisory.
“The guidance we put out … obviously deals with laws and situations as they are,” the prime minister said. “We try to give that advice dispassionately and impartially. … We believe that we should be trying to use more to end discrimination rather than to embed it or enhance it. That’s something we’re comfortable saying to countries and friends anywhere in the world. We make clear our own views about the importance of trying to end discrimination.”
The president said the state laws “aren’t necessarily reflective of a national consensus.”
Mr. Obama said some of the people who advocated for the laws “are good people, but I just disagree with when it comes to respecting the equal rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation, whether they’re transgender or gay or lesbian.”