U.K. Issues Travel Advisory For LGBT Brits Visiting North Carolina, Mississippi

Michael W. Chapman | April 21, 2016 | 12:04pm EDT
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The British flag and the gay rainbow

flag fly above the Cabinet Office

and Dover House in London. 

(Photo: Gov.uk)

(CNSNews.com) -- Because of the "bathroom" law in North Carolina and religious liberty law in Mississippi, the United Kingdom has issued a travel advisory to its British LGBT citizens, warning them to be aware of the new laws in those two states should they travel there.

"Laws vary from state to state," in the United States, reads the U.K. governmental advisory.  "When you are physically present in a state, even temporarily, you are subject to that state's laws."

"The US is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards LGBT people differ hugely across the country," says the advisory.  "LGBT travellers may be affected by legislation passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi."

"Before travelling please read our general travel advice for the LGBT community," staes the advisory. "You can find more detail on LGBT issues in the US on the website of the Human Rights Campaign."

Among the travel tips the British government give to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers are the following:

--  excessive physical shows of affection, by both same-sex and heterosexual couples, are often best avoided in public

-- if you intend to visit cruising areas or internet chat rooms find out about the local situation – police in some countries have been known to carry out entrapment campaigns

-- be wary of new-found ‘friends’- criminals sometimes exploit the generally open and relaxed nature of the gay scene

-- you’re more likely to experience difficulties in rural areas so it’s best to exercise discretion

If LGBT Brits get into trouble while overseas, the U.K. government states, "Our embassy staff will help you if you run into problems overseas, especially if you feel that you can’t approach the local police. We won’t make generalisations, assumptions or pass judgement."

As for transgender travelers and their passports,  the U.K. says, "You’ll usually be able to get a passport in your new name if you can provide documentary evidence detailing the date and circumstance of the name change. Contact the Identity and Passport Service for more information."

In reaction to the U.K. travel advisory, the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement, “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."

“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," said Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global.

In North Carolina, the law states that men and women must use the facilities -- bathrooms, locker rooms, showers -- that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate, in those facilities that are open to the public.  Private businesses can set their own rules.  For transgenders, if they get a sex-change operation and have their new sex updated on their birth certificate, they can then use the facilities of their new sexual identity. 

In Mississippi, the law protects people's "religious beliefs or moral convictions," and says they do not have to participate in any action that violates those beliefs. For instance, a Christian bakery or restaurant would not have to cater a homosexual wedding if the business owners opposed same-sex conduct. 

“In the wake of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision, many Mississippians, including pastors, wanted protection to exercise their religious liberties,” said Mississippi's Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican.  “This bill simply protects those individuals from government interference when practicing their religious beliefs.”

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