Raleigh, N.C. — President Barack Obama on Friday joined the growing chorus of voices calling on North Carolina legislators to overturn a new law that sets discrimination policy statewide.
"It's very important for us not to send signals that anyone is treated differently," Obama said during a news conference in London, where he was meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron as well as the royal family.
House Bill 2, which was approved and signed into law in less than 12 hours last month, requires people to use public bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates, excludes gay and transgender people from discrimination protections and bars cities and counties from extending such protections to them.
The British government issued a travel advisory this week for LGBT citizens visiting North Carolina and Mississippi, which passed a law recently that allows businesses to refuse service to LGBT customers.
"The laws that have been passed there are wrong and should be overturned," Obama said, encouraging British tourists to visit the two states.
He said he understands the "strong emotions" that led to the law but said he disagrees with that viewpoint on LGBT rights.
Cameron, who visited North Carolina years ago, said the travel advisory was issued solely to make people aware of the new laws and any difficulties they might face because of them.
"Our view on any of these things is that we believe we should be trying to use law to end discrimination rather than to embed it or enhance it," he said.
Since its passage, scores of corporations have called for a repeal of House Bill 2, and some have dropped plans to expand operations in North Carolina. Local city councils have passed resolutions against the law, performers from Bruce Springsteen to Pearl Jam have canceled concerts, trade groups have shifted conventions out of the state and the NBA is considering moving the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte.
On Thursday, the debate entered the presidential campaign, when Republican front-runner Donald Trump said transgender people should be allowed to use whichever bathroom they want. Rival Ted Cruz responded by calling the law common sense and accusing Trump of bowing to political correctness.
Gov. Pat McCrory, who has fiercely defended House Bill 2, declined to answer questions about it Friday during a news conference about his proposed budget. Later, the Governor's Office issued a statement disagreeing with Obama's stance.
"Governor McCrory agrees with President Obama that all people are welcome to our state and everybody will be treated well with extraordinary hospitality. However, the governor respectfully disagrees with the political left’s national agenda to mandate changes to basic, common-sense restroom norms," the statement read.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said Wednesday that lawmakers don't plan to consider any repeal legislation when they convene next week for their 2016 session.
"Not every father has the luxury of Secret Service agents protecting his daughters’ right to privacy in the girls’ bathroom," Berger said in response to Obama's comments.
"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," House Speaker Tim Moore added.