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The UK government is warning LGBTQ travelers to be careful in the US

The United Kingdom wants British travelers to the US to be careful of potential anti-LGBTQ laws and attitudes.

On Wednesday, the UK government issued the warning on its travel advice website in response to anti-LGBTQ laws in North Carolina and Mississippi:

The US is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards LGBT people differ hugely across the country. 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. You can find more detail on LGBT issues in the US on the website of the Human Rights Campaign.

This may seem like the UK throwing some shade at America, but transgender travelers really do face new risks in North Carolina. For one, the state now bans trans people from using bathrooms in schools and government buildings that align with their gender identity. So a trip to the bathroom can now turn complicated or even ugly.

If anything, the warning is too limited. While it is certainly true that North Carolina and Mississippi both allow, for example, restaurants, hotels, and other such businesses that serve the public (known as public accommodations) to kick out customers just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, that is true in a majority of states in the country.

Most states and the federal government don't have laws explicitly protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in these types of settings. The issue is not that these states passed new anti-LGBTQ laws, although some have. It's that they never passed civil rights laws that protect LGBTQ people, much like other statutes protect people from discrimination based on race, national origin, and sex.

So if you're a traveler trying to check into a hotel or buy a meal at a restaurant, it would be totally legal in most states for the owner or manager to kick you out. That seems like something British travelers should know about.

Hat tip: Nicolás Medina Mora at BuzzFeed.

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