The UK Foreign Office, which gives advice to British travelers, has issued new warning guidelines to members of the LGBT+ community traveling to the United States.
Whilst the Foreign Office has in the past issued warning to LGBT+ people about travelling to countries such as Russia, pointing out the country’s ‘gay propaganda’ law, or Turkey, where same sex couples have been attacked following public displays of affection, they have not given advice on countries that are deemed to be ‘progressive’.
That has changed now, as they have updated their literature to include the United States, following new legislation in certain states that allows discrimination towards members of the LGBT+ community.
‘The US is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards LGBT people differ hugely across the country.’ Their advice states. ‘Laws vary from state to state. When you are physically present in a state, even temporarily, you are subject to that state’s laws. You must carry a passport showing that you have leave to enter or remain with you at all times.
‘LGBT travellers may be affected by legislations passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi. The update states. ‘Before travelling please read our general travel advice for the LGBT community. You can find more details on LGBT issues in the US on the website of the Human Rights Campaign.’
The two states that are named in the advice have both recently passed anti-LGBT laws. In April Mississippi passed legislation that allows businesses to refuse service to members of the LGBT+ community due to religious objection. In March North Carolina passed HB2, which limits LGBT+ protections and forces transgender people to use the bathrooms corresponding to their sex on their birth certificates, rather than the gender they identify with and live as.
Commenting on the change in advice from the Foreign Office Matt Horwood of Stonewall said, ‘What’s happened in Mississippi and North Carolina proves that equality is never secure. It’s positive to see the UK government recognises this need to update its travel advice pages accordingly.’
Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global said, ‘It’s both frightening and embarrassing that one of our nation’s staunchest allies has warned its citizens of the risks of travelling 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.’
Dr Felicity Daly, director of the LGBT Kaleidoscope Trust said, ‘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.’
Whilst it is a good thing that the Foreign Office are addressing these issues it is a shame that warnings are being made about a country that prides itself as being one of the ‘greatest in the world’ in the same way that people are warned about some of the most oppressive and dangerous.