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UK Issues Warnings for LGBT Travelers Headed to US

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The UK government issued a warning for LGBT people traveling to the United States, regarding controversial anti-gay laws recently introduced in North Carolina and Mississippi.

A hotly-debated measure signed in Mississippi allows churches, religious charities and businesses to deny services to gay people on the grounds that doing otherwise would be in violation of their religious beliefs. The law will come into force July 1.

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North Carolina's Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, also known as the "bathroom bill," demands that people only use a public toilet that corresponds to their biological sex rather than the gender with which they identify.

The moves, initiated in America's southern states, have provoked heated debate, with advocates of the restrictive legislation claiming they are protecting the freedom of religious beliefs. Gay rights groups point out that the bill is "legalized discrimination."

Previously, the UK Foreign Office didn't specifically mention the US while admonishing LGBT people to "take care abroad," but altered its warning in the wake of the new bills in US states that are now considered to be discriminating against homosexuals and non-standard gender types.

"LGBT travelers may be affected by legislations passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi," the Foreign Office recommendation reads, observing that laws in America vary widely from state to state and, as far as you are physically present in a certain state, you are subject to its laws and exposed to the prejudices of locals, who may display fearful aggressive behavior toward unfamiliar behavior.

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Several musicians, including stars like Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr and Bryan Adams, have cancelled concerts in North Carolina and Mississippi over the legislation.

"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," said Dr Felicity Daly, director of the LGBT Kaleidoscope Trust, cited by the Independent. "But," she added, "most people who identify as LGBT in the UK will already be aware of the nature of certain states."

Matt Horwood of Stonewall, a charity, added that the situation in Mississippi and North Carolina is a reminder that "equality is never secure."

"It's positive to see the UK government recognize this need and update its travel advice pages accordingly." Horwood said.

The Foreign Office alert comes prior to a visit to the UK by US President Barack Obama.

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