The British government has a new message for LGBTQ travelers going to North Carolina or Mississippi: caution.
This week, the UK’s Foreign Office updated its travel advisory for citizens, in the wake of recent laws enacted in both states that have come under criticism for targeting LGBTQ people.
“The US is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards LGBT people differ hugely across the country,” the Foreign Office’s statement says.
It went on to direct travelers to a website with general travel advice for the LGBTQ community.
“The advice just warns people – LGBT travelers – who are going to the United States, that not all of the United States is the same,” says Paul Barnes, Campaigns and Communications Director for the Gay European Tourism Association, which helped the UK Foreign Office produce the travel advisory.
“It’s not really about any difficulties,” Barnes adds, “it’s just saying you won’t really be welcome there. One of the things that is important to us is that we want to go on holiday to places where people welcome us.”
North Carolina’s HB2 Law, which took effect on April 1, bans local governments from adopting nondiscrimination measures that offer protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
On April 5, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed into law HB 1523. The bill allows businesses in the state to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on religious beliefs.
That same day, during his daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest gave this response when asked about Mississippi's new law:
“The president and the administration has long been on the side of justice and equality. And some of the laws that we’ve seen passed that target LGBT Americans are not consistent with those values of fairness and equality. And in some cases, those laws are outright mean-spirited, and it’s not something that most Americans are comfortable with.”
“The general view around the world,” says Barnes, “is that the US is a very open and welcoming destination. But we’re just pointing out that if you go to Mississippi or North Carolina, you might not be so welcome.”
The US is not the only country to be the subject of such a travel warning from the British Foreign Office:
Homosexuality is legal in Russia, but there is still intolerance among some sections of the population. Be careful about public displays of affection. In June 2013 a law banning the promotion of ‘non-traditional sexual relations’ entered into force, but the definition and scope of prohibited activity is vague. Foreign nationals convicted under this law could face arrest and detention, fines and deportation. There have been reports that instances of harassment, threats, and acts of violence towards the LGBT community have increased following the introduction of the law.
Homosexuality is not illegal although there are no specific laws in place to protect the rights of LGBT people.
Although homosexuality is not prohibited by law, public attitudes are less tolerant than in the UK and public displays of affection may attract negative attention. There is no provision under Ukrainian legislation guaranteeing freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and there has been an increase in intolerance towards the LGBT community.
Homosexuality is not widely accepted in central African society and sexual acts between members of the same sex are illegal in Cameroon. There were arrests and prosecutions of homosexuals during 2014 and a brutal murder of an LGBT activist in 2013.
There is a zero tolerance towards LGBT people in The Gambia. The Gambian Criminal Code states that any person who has or attempts to have ‘carnal knowledge’ of any person ‘against the order of nature’ is guilty of a crime and could face 14 years’ imprisonment.
From PRI's The World ©2016 PRI