Did the UK just comment on American LGBT laws?
The UK Foreign Office has updated its travel website to include a warning for British LGBT travelers about controversial new laws passed by Southern states.
The United Kingdom has weighed in on the controversial debate about LGBT rights simmering in US states, with the British Foreign Office posting a travel advisory to warn LGBT British travelers to beware of laws recently passed in North Carolina and Mississippi.
"The US is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people differ hugely across the country," the advisory warns. "LGBT travellers may be affected by legislation passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi."
The UK government's note that laws and opinions vary widely by state is an apt one. After the US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the country in a decision last summer, states that had not embraced the LGBT rights campaign began to consider laws that LGBT advocates call discrimination, but conservative states say are necessary to protect against the erosion of religious liberties.
North Carolina's controversial House Bill 2, signed into law late last month, requires those identifying as transgender to use the restroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate. Both North Carolina and Mississippi give business owners an out from participating in same-sex weddings if they have religious objections to doing so.
The UK Foreign Office reminds travelers that laws vary and, depending on which state they choose to go on holiday, they may be subject to these laws.
"Before travelling please read our general travel advice for the LGBT community," the advisory continues. "You can find more detail on LGBT issues in the US on the website of the Human Rights Campaign."
Technically, the UK government does not offer an opinion on the laws passed by these states. The website does, however, refer prospective travelers to the Human Rights Campaign, a US organization that has criticized North Carolina and Mississippi, as well as similar laws that other states have debated, on no uncertain terms.
Stateside, artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Ringo Starr, and Bryan Adams have boycotted performances in those states. San Francisco, the state of New York, and Washington, DC, have symbolically boycotted the states by forbidding non-essential trips there for government workers.
"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," Human Rights Campaign Director Ty Cobb said in a press release responding to the UK website update.
Before the website's update, the UK Foreign Office advised gay British travelers only in general terms to "take care abroad," the Independent reported. UK gay rights groups expressed support for the updated advisory.
"It is heartening the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is becoming more LGBT responsive in their work, it's a good sign as it is an important issue in the UK, but most people who identify as LGBT in the UK will already be aware of the nature of certain states," Felicity Daly, director of the LGBT Kaleidoscope Trust, told The Independent.