In response to developments in various states on legislation seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the bills demonstrate the “struggle goes on” to achieve LGBT rights.
Earnest made the remarks Tuesday aboard Air Force One during President Obama’s trip to Georgia in response to a reporter’s question about whether the president is frustrated with anti-LGBT bills like the ones seen in Georgia and North Carolina emerging in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in favor of same-sex marriage.
“The president obviously has spoken warmly and even celebrated the ruling on gay marriage from the Supreme Court last summer,” Earnest said. “That obviously was a ruling that the president thought was the right one and was appropriately regarded as an historic one. But the president never was under the impression — and I don’t think anybody was — that that would be the end of the struggle for equality and for justice and for fairness. That struggle goes on.”
Earnest said states are having “robust debate,” but warned enacting anti-LGBT laws could result in the same fallout that befell Indiana last year, when businesses threatened to boycott the state over a “religious freedom” law that was later rolled back.
“I think there are a number of states — Indiana certainly comes to mind — that have regretted the way that they had considered those kinds of policy changes,” Earnest said. “But, look, each of these — this is the way our system of government works — that there are going to be state governments who are going to weigh in.”
Pointing out many of the measures seek to allow anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of religious freedom, Earnest said Obama believes the right to religious liberty shouldn’t be an excuse for bigotry.
“There should be no doubt about the president’s view of this,” Earnest said. “The president comes down on the side of fairness and equality, and opposing discrimination in all its forms every time. That’s certainly true in these instances. It’s the president’s strong view that we can take all the necessary steps to protect religious freedom without giving people the approval to discriminate against people because of who they love.”
Also on Tuesday, White House spokesperson Jeff Tiller issued a statement responding to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoing on Monday a “religious freedom” bill that was seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination.
“The citizens of Georgia, advocates and business leaders across the state made their voices heard regarding the potential harmful impact of this legislation on LGBT Americans,” Tiller said. “Gov. Deal listened to those concerns and made a well-informed decision. We will continue to revere religious freedom and insist that Americans be afforded the equal protection of the law and treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love.”