LONDON – President Barack Obama called for House Bill 2 in North Carolina to be overturned in a news conference Friday with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Obama spoke specifically to recent laws passed in North Carolina and Mississippi and in the wake of the British Foreign Office issuing a notice that “LGBT travelers may be affected by legislation passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi.”
The British comment raised concerns that the laws could impact travel to states like North Carolina, where tourism is a major industry. North Carolina passed House Bill 2 last month. Mississippi has passed a law that will take effect in July that would allow businesses not to refuse to serve gays based on religious beliefs.
Speaking Friday, Obama said, “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 welcome. And you should come and enjoy yourselves, and I think you’ll be treated with extraordinary hospitality.”
But then Obama addressed the laws at length
“I also think that the laws that have been passed there are wrong and should be overturned,” Obama said. “They are in response to politics, in part, and in part to strong emotions that are generated by people, some of whom are good people but I just disagree with when it comes to respecting the equal rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or whether they are transgender, gay or lesbian.
“Although I respect their different viewpoints, I think it’s very important for us not to send signals that somebody is treated differently.”
Suggested that these laws are not reflective of “a national consensus.”
“But if you guys come to North Carolina or Mississippi everybody will be treated well.”
Britain’s Cameron said, “We should be trying to use law to end discrimination, rather than to embed it or enhance it.”
Obama’s comments drew the ire of North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, who said, “President Obama doesn’t have the best track record on matters of safety and security relating to foreign policy. Now it seems like he’s challenged on some basic safety issues here in the United States, too.”
And North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger said, “Not every father has the luxury of secret service agents protecting his daughters’ right to privacy in the girls’ bathroom.”
But Chris Sgro of Equality North Carolina was encouraged, and Sgro will join the General Assembly Monday as a replacement for Democrat Ralph Johnson of Guilford County, who is deceased.
“Actually having to look a member of a community in the face and telling them that you’re willing to discriminate against them is much, much harder than passively signing a piece of legislation when there’s nobody in the room to hold you accountable,” Sgro said.