North Carolina Republicans criticized President Barack Obama on Friday after the president told a news conference in London the state’s law on transgender bathroom use was wrong and should be overturned.
North Carolina last month became the first state to require transgender people to use public restrooms that match the sex assigned to them at birth rather than their gender identity.
Big businesses, rock stars and other artists have boycotted the state unless it repeals the law, which transgender advocates say misguidedly whips up concern over public safety and infringes on the rights of transgender people.
Backers of the legislation in the Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature say it is meant to protect privacy rights and keep children and women safe from sexual predators.
“Not every father has the luxury of Secret Service agents protecting his daughters’ right to privacy in the girls’ bathroom,” North Carolina State Senate Leader Phil Berger said in a statement.
Reporters asked Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron about the law after the British government had issued a warning to its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens that recent laws passed in North Carolina and Mississippi may affect them.
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant this month signed a far-reaching law allowing people with religious objections to deny wedding services to same-sex couples and protecting other actions considered discriminatory by gay rights activists.
Obama said North Carolina and Mississippi “are beautiful states, and you are welcome and you should come and enjoy yourselves.”
“I also think that the laws that have been passed there are wrong and should be overturned,” Obama said.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s office released a statement saying he agreed with Obama that Britons are welcome in the state and would receive hospitality.
“However, the governor respectfully disagrees with the political left’s national agenda to mandate changes to basic, common-sense restroom norms,” spokesman Josh Ellis said in a statement.
North Carolina Speaker of the House Tim Moore said Obama’s safety and security record on foreign policy was weak and “now it seems like he’s challenged on some basic safety issues here in the United States, too.”
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by David Gregorio)