Today, HRC released the following statement after the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office warned its LGBT citizens of the risks of traveling to North Carolina and Mississippi, which have enacted anti-LGBT laws. The updated travel warning comes just ahead of President Obama’s planned visit to England.
“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. “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.”
According to reports, the Foreign Office warns potential tourists that they should be wary of states that have passed new legislation targeting LGBT people.
North Carolina’s H.B. 2 has eliminated existing municipal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people and prevents such protections from being passed by cities in the future. In addition, the legislation prevents transgender students in public schools from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity. It also compels the same type of discrimination against transgender people to take place in publicly-owned buildings, including in public universities, major airports, and convention centers. Further, HB 2 revokes the ability to sue under state employment non-discrimination law on the basis of any protected characteristic, including race, religion, national origin, and sex.
North Carolina lawmakers passed the legislation in a hurried, single-day session, and Governor Pat McCrory quickly signed it into law in the dead of night. The discriminatory law is already facing a legal challenge, and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said he will refuse to defend it in court.
North Carolina has the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first state in the country to enact a law attacking transgender students, even after similar proposals were being rejected across the country -- including a high-profile veto by the Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota. Earlier this week, the sponsor of a similar bill in Tennessee announced plans to pull the discriminatory legislation from consideration this year, after outcry from tens of thousands of fair-minded Tennesseans; major national child welfare, medical, and education groups; country music stars; and major business leaders. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Attorney General Slatery had also expressed concerns about the state losing millions of dollars in federal funds.
In Mississippi, the the so-called “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act,” H.B. 1523 would allow almost any individual or organization to use religion to justify discrimination against LGBT Mississippians in some of the most important aspects of their lives, including at work, at school and in their communities. Tax-payer funded faith-based organizations could: refuse to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples for provision of critical services including emergency shelter; deny children in need of loving homes placement with LGBT families including the child’s own family member; and refuse to sell or rent a for-profit home to an LGBT person -- even if the organization receives government funding. It would also give foster families the freedom to subject an LGBTQ child or a pregnant unwed girl to abuse, without fear of government intervention or license suspension.
Furthermore, under H.B. 1523 schools, employers, and service providers could refuse transgender people access to appropriate sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity -- all in direct conflict with the U.S. Department of Justice’s enforcement of federal law. HB 1523 even legalizes Kim Davis-style discrimination by allowing government employees to abdicate their duties and refuse to license or solemnize marriages for LGBT people.